“Between Sundays” is a weekly e-letter written mainly for the people of Calvary Community Church, but that I hope will be a blessing to the wider readership of this little blog. This last Sunday I had the joy of preaching on the staggering promises in the sermon of Jesus found in Luke 4:14-22. We hear Jesus read a portion of Isaiah 61. And when you go there to get the wider context (as you always should when a NT writer quotes the OT), you see the breadth and width of the promises found in the coming and work of the Annointed One.
As I prayed and talked further with people after the service, and reflected on those conversations on my way home, a sense of deep joy and excitement rose within me. Why? Because over these next months we will continue to hear from Jesus - in his preaching, teaching, life, and ministry - all of the staggering promises that are fulfilled and are ours in his message. And more specifically, in him. Promises about our future and the present.
What a delight for people and preacher: I get to proclaim good news, and you get to hear it!
I'd like to give you a little taste of this, a bridge Between Sundays, which will stoke the fires of your joy.
As we continue moving through Luke, there is an image that we need to keep in mind. Namely, the cross is casting a long shadow. It extends all the way back from Luke 23 to where we currently stand in this sermon series at Luke 4. Jesus knows the cross is why he has come. He knows (as his ministry begins) exactly where it is all headed. All the promises he will proclaim and declare are delivered by the work that he will do on that cross, in submission to his Father, for the good of his people. This knowledge is what, for Jesus, transforms enduring the cross into a work of joy (Hebrews 12:2).
But that shadow extends back even further than the beginning of Luke's story.
One of the things I mentioned Sunday was a quote from pastor Douglas Wilson:
In his sermon "The Weight of Glory," C.S. Lewis has an astute observation - he refers to the reality of the coming resurrection in this way: "We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in."
The point here is not to take anything away from the glory of Lewis' observation. But it does need to be said that the pages of the Old Testament were rustling with a magnificent expectation also. These prophecies and glimmers and glorious sketches looked forward expectantly to the coming of the Messiah, and not only to the coming of the Messiah, but to everything else that He would bring with Him...we sometimes don't pay close enough attention to these inspired rumors and rustlings.
This morning I was reading Isaiah 54, and the wind of the Spirit was blowing and the leaves were making quite a ruckus.
This text is preceded by a passage many Christians are familiar with, Isaiah 52:13-53:12, which is a song of the Servant of the Lord. God has bared his arm ("rolled up his sleeves", if you will) for the task of saving the world. And in this song we meet that salvation in a Person. He is the one who will bear our sin-sickness, shoulder our sorrows, be pierced because of our rebellions, and crushed for our iniquities. He will provide righteousness for the many by pouring out his soul to death.
It is the story of Jesus, the Annointed One, on the cross.
And now, in Isaiah 54, God wants to unpack the benefits that come through so great a sacrifice, every one of them producing joy for his people. Let's look at just one:
...with great compassion I will gather you.
In a rush of impatience I hid my face momentarily
and with everlasting devotion I have set myself to show you compassion,
your Redeemer Yahweh has said.
For to me this is the waters of Noah:
exactly as I swore that Noah's waters not cross the
so I have sworn not to be impatient with you,
and not to rebuke you.
For the mountains may slip away and the hills slide
but my devotion will not slip away from being with you,
nor will the covenant of my peace slide,
Yahweh who shows you compassion has said. (Isaiah 54:7-10, translation by Alec Motyer)
Do you see? The Sovereign God of the universe has sworn not to be impatient with us! Of all people, I do believe God has abundant reason to be impatient with me. But he has sworn an oath to the opposite. To be patient. To refrain from rebuke. To hold a "covenant of peace". What is it that moves God so?
It is the great dual-banded muscle of his love, flexed on our behalf. Alec Motyer:
'Compassion' and 'devotion' (in this passage) are the two sides of the divine love. 'Compassion', related to the word for 'womb', is surging, maternal love (cf., 1 Kings 3:26). It is the love of being 'in love'; love centered on emotions and heart.
'Devotion' (chesedh in the Hebrew) is love centered on the will; a determination and commitment to love.
So God flexes the muscle of his love, and the "band" of his compassion engages in a surging of maternal love pouring out over us from his emotions and heart. God flexes the muscle of his love, and the "band" of his devotion creates a determination and commitment to bring about the benefits that his compassion produces. Both bands of muscle operating in his mighty arm bared for us are necessary to bring about his great and many promises.
And all of that is made possible by Jesus.
On the cross.
It is the work of the Annointed Servant of the Lord that clears the way. Without that sacrifice, none of it is possible. And we get this Sunday, and many more, to continue to explore the work of so great a Savior!
This, the pow'r of the cross: Christ became sin for us; Took the blame, bore the wrath— We stand forgiven at the cross.
(from, The Power of the Cross, a song by Keith Getty)