sermonguy (sermonguy) wrote,

Third-Last Sunday in the Church Year — St. Isaiah 49.12-17

Grace to you and Peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus.

“the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted. But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’ Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands”

This is Your Word heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the Truth. Your Word is Truth. Amen.

Fellow redeemed: The bride had been hurting so long, she couldn’t remember what not hurting felt like. She was desolate, abused, and she knew two things: She knew that her Groom had finally abandoned her, and it was all her fault. Now she knew that she would be alone forever.

She had been the unfaithful one. Her Groom had loved her so deeply, had so tenderly cared for her. But at every opportunity she had turned her back on Him, had despised Him, had run after anybody else, but Him. Finally, as the bride steadfastly refused anything the Groom might do, her last dalliance simply took her— carried her far away. Since then, she had been beaten down, made a slave, treated shamefully. Only now did it begin to dawn, as the years ticked by, now that she was kept in thrall, away, and alone, how much, how fully the Groom had loved her all along. And now it was too late.

But the Groom had not abandoned His bride. He only gave her what she demanded, and for a little while let her live with the consequences of her foolish, unfaithful, sinful desires. He was still waiting patiently. What the bride thought she knew for sure, wasn’t quite as true as she imagined. Yes, it had been all her fault. No, He hadn’t abandoned her, and no, she wouldn’t be alone forever. He had never moved. He still loved her, in spite of so many wrongs she had done. In spite of how the bride had hurt her Groom, in spite of what a selfish fool she had been, He still loved her, and would gladly bring her to Himself again, and make her a home better than she might ever have desired or imagined.

Still, there were so many consequences. Her sons and daughters remained scattered and lost. She had whored herself out so blatantly, she knew she was undesirable, used up, played out, unlovable, ugly. No Groom could restore such a bride. Her tears only dried through exhaustion. The sooner death came, the better.

But not in His opinion. The Groom is steadfast, and unchanging.

Who is this faithless bride? The prophet Isaiah wrote this about Zion— that is, the people of Jerusalem and the Temple. They were about to be invaded and carried off into a seventy year long exile to far-away Babylon. Though she had been faithless, the Groom would remain faithful.

Who is this faithless bride? You are this faithless bride. As once there was a single nation through whom the Lord would bless the whole world, now the Church, and all who belong to Her, who are the Bride of Christ. And as you consider your own relation with the Groom, you will begin to see, here and there, where you have turned your back on the One Who Loves You. Then you will see more, and more, and more, and you may be tempted to despair that the love of Jesus must certainly not be for you. Your own thoughts, words, and deeds, time and again, disqualify you.

It is true. The people of Jerusalem to whom the Lord sent His Word through Isaiah, twenty-six centuries ago, were complacent at best, and had shown by their behavior how they preferred almost anything to the loving care of our Lord. The Temple had been clogged with the paraphenalia of many foreign idols. The hills around the city were topped by the so-called ‘high places’ of the fertility cults. They insisted on religion only on their terms, and their terms had led them far, far away from the true God with His loving care for them.

And we too have done very much the same thing, preferring our own desires and whims to the unchanging Word of the Lord. Things which culturally appeal, we take as being God-pleasing, whether or not they agree with what He has given us in His Word. As Zion twenty-six hundred years ago, so the prophet shows us our own ugly reflection in the mirror of God’s law.

There is nothing they could do then. There is nothing we can do now. Despair would seem the most reasonable thing. We are lost, and surely the Groom will forever leave us to our fate.

There is nothing we can do, but the Groom, you see, He can do all things. His love then, and now, is steadfast and unchanging. The Groom, our Lord Jesus, will have for Himself a spotless and perfect bride for His Church, no matter what it cost Him.

When you see your sin, and you admit there’s nothing you can do, then here is what Jesus says to you. Yes, it is the very same thing He has been saying for a long, long time, ever since His people of old were cast into exile. When the people of Jerusalem came to the dreadful reality of their faithlessness, “Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me.’” The Lord replies to you, as He said to the sinners who came before you “Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands.”

Consider the most wonderful, most intense love a mother has for her nursing infant. She cannot forget her child, for his cries, and her own body continually remind her of him, and how she may provide the nourishment and comfort he needs. But even the best, most intense of loving-care is a thing which can be broken. We are all sinners, and yes, there are dreadful examples of parents being faithless and unfeeling toward their little children— hard to imagine as that may be! But even if a mother could forget her nursing infant, Jesus wants you to know that He has not, will not, CAN NOT forget you.

You are engraved on Him. Those nail scars identify you. There is your identity, held before your Savior forever. His love is perfect, He will not forget you.

In your sin, He turns you from your anguish and despair, turns you from self-contemplation to focus not within yourself, but on Him. Look to Jesus. He is the Author and Perfecter of the Faith. He is steadfast and unmoving. He loves you, and will not turn from you. You may have been faithless. You may have preferred many other things, but Jesus is faithful. And He prepares you even now as His own beloved, without sin, spot, wrinkle, or any defect in the eyes of the Father. Jesus presents you as perfect.

You see, Jesus has given Himself to pay the penalty of your sin. He offered Himself in your place. And with every stroke of the scourging whip, you are comforted. By His stripes, you are being healed. With every hammer-blow, as nails were driven through His hands, that He might be offered up on the cross to die, your name has been inscribed on Him. In Jesus’ wounds, you are made whole. You are grafted into Him, as branches into a vine, and His body and blood are given to nourish and sustain you as no mother ever could do for her nursing child.

Time and again the people of old turned away from the Lord. Time and again, every one of us, in our thoughts, words, and deeds have forgotten about Jesus. But He has not forgotten you. The Groom tenderly and lovingly gives Himself to prepare you as His bride. And He is bringing you home. And in His Father’s House are many mansions, and one for you. In sin we have forgotten our Lord. In His grace, Jesus has remembered us. In Him you are forgiven, restored, and made new. And one day you shall see Him as He is, and you, and I, and all the Church down the many ages will be made new.

Jesus, your Groom, loves you, and He remembers you. He will not leave you alone in sin to die forever. He brings you in Him, and you will be made whole. You are engraved into the palms of His hands.

The peace of God which passes all understanding, guard over your heart and mind through Christ Jesus. Ame
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