As many of you know, I have been doing a lot of pulpit supply lately. Yesterday I had the privilege of bringing the message at West Church in Haverhill, MA. I have been humbled and blessed by the way God empowered this message. Hope you enjoy it. I have attached the audio as well if you would like to listen.
One of my favorite movies is The Princess Bride. I love how the title is the same when you flip it upside-down.
There are so many great quotes from that movie! Who has not heard that line of Indigo Montoya’s, “I will walk up to the six-fingered man and say, ‘Hello. My name is Indigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die!'”? Classic!
In the scene before he issues that immortal line, he is waiting for the hero of the story, Westley, “The Man in Black,” to climb the Cliffs of Insanity to meet him in battle. He looks down at him, watching as he slowly makes the dangerous climb, and calls down to him, “I do nota suppose you coulda speed things up?”
Wesley looks up and replies, “Well if you are in such a rush you could lower a rope, or a tree branch, or find something useful to do.”
“I could do that. In fact I have some rope up here. But I do nota think you woulda accept my help, since I am only awaiting around to kill you!”
“That does put a damper on our relationship…”
“But, I promise I will not kill you until you reach the top.”
“That’s very comforting, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to wait.”
To which Indigo says out loud to himself, “I hate waiting!”
I know how he feels. I hate waiting too. Am I alone in that?
Whatever kind of waiting there is, all forms of waiting have one thing in common: Waiting is hard. The question is: is what you are waiting for worth the effort of waiting? Because if at some point we come to the conclusion that what we are waiting for is not worth the price of waiting for it, we will give up on it and move on.
How many of you are looking forward to Christmas? You know it’s coming. The date is set. But you can’t speed it up. You have to wait for it.
How many of you have every sat in a waiting room at a hospital? Waiting for news. Maybe for a baby, or a successful surgery, or the results of a test? That waiting is not so pleasant. It’s more stressful. But again, you can’t speed it up. You have to wait for it.
How about waiting when you need rescued? You know help is on the way, but you have to stay in a difficult place until that help comes. You can’t control when that help arrives, you can only hold on and wait for it.
The passage I have chosen for us this morning addresses the fears, trouble, and struggle of God’s people in Judah as they waited. The Empire of Assyria was taking over that part of the world. The Northern kingdom of Samaria had been unceremoniously sacked and its people deported. While there was certainly sense in Judah that was pleased with that, since the ten tribes that made up the Northern kingdom had turned their backs on God’s covenant with the Davidic line, they weren’t unaware of the fact that they were next on the menu.
Politically things were very scary. The faithful in Judah had more reason to be afraid, because they know that the kingdom of Judah was no model of fidelity to God either. They were waiting, watching, wondering what was going to happen. What was God going to do? God’s people needed saved. They needed rescued. The question was: was help on the way, or was God done with them?
God told them through Isaiah that He was sending help. A person who would rescue them. Our Scripture for this morning is one of those passages, Isaiah 42:1-9 (NIV),
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
This is what God the LORD says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
“I am the LORD; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another
or my praise to idols.
See, the former things have taken place,
and new things I declare;
before they spring into being
I announce them to you.”
What God was going to do was not a rehash of old things. He was going to do something new. What God was doing was going to bring justice, fan hope, bring light to the dark, sight to the blind, and free the prisoner. This Servant He was sending would not only have God’s blessing, He would have His Spirit, His delight, His authority. He was going to come with power, but He was also going to come with grace and mercy. He would not break the weak or snuff out the faith of those who were about to give up hope. He would bring them justice, save them from their enemies and even be a light to the gentiles. They Israel would finally be free and be at peace.
Yes, help was on the way. And while things may look bad (and will look like they are getting worse) that Servant, that Savior, was worth waiting for.
One of the things God was saying to Israel in that passage is that Jesus’ coming was worth waiting for. He was worth watching for. He was worth longing for.
When we look out the window of life we may be tempted to question that. Two thousand years have gone by, and things do not look good.
Truth be told, there are ways in which our situation is parallel to the people of Judah in Isaiah’s day. They were in the midst of troubled times too. Like us, they had to deal with leaders who were not God fearing people. Like us, there was no shortage of enemies without who wanted to see them gone, who believed their God was yesterday’s news. And like them, the Church is not in the greatest shape right now, nor is it in good repute. Like them, we are waiting, watching, wondering what is going to happen. How much worse can things get? Will they ever get better? It seems like the walls are closing in. What is God going to do? We need saved. We need rescued. The question is: is help on the way? Is Emmanuel still with us, or is God done with us?
The lesson for us in this this passage is that Jesus’ coming is still worth waiting for.
First, Jesus is worth waiting for because He is the Father’s Servant. That title is good news. He is the Father’s Servant. He is totally committed to His Father and to His Father’s kingdom. He has the Father’s blessing, the Father’s Spirit, and the Father’s authority. And all that power is not in the hands of a tyrant, but a Servant. This Servant would not act on His own, but would be led by the Father’s hand, and be upheld and kept by Him. Jesus says in John 8:28-29 (NIV),
I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.
God’s commitment to Him and to His mission is not something He would back out of because of anything we may or may not do.
Second, Jesus’ coming is worth waiting for because He leads in righteousness. He is not swayed by personality or tempted by power. You can’t tip His scales, and no one can stop Him from straightening theirs. Isaiah 11:3-5 (NLT) says that
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.
Jesus brings a justice that is not tainted by pride, or driven by fear, or soiled by selfishness. He is the single exception to the rule that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Third, Jesus’ coming is worth waiting for because He is compassionate. That omnipotent power and authority would not be wielded by force, but with compassion. He would not shout or raise His voice. Earthly rulers don’t think twice about breaking the broken, but He will not break the bruised reeds among His people. Earthly kings may not pay attention to the weak, the downcast, and the hopeless. But Jesus will not snuff out the weak of faith when He comes again. Because He is compassionate, the smoldering wick is fanned back into flame and the bruised reed is straightened and strengthened.
And fourth, Jesus’ coming is worth waiting for because He comes with grace to set His people free. Even now, He is bringing light into the darkness, and that light does not limit itself to certain people in certain nations. There are no loopholes or small print, no conditions, bargains, or petitions. His light does not discriminate on any kind of scale of weights and measures of worthiness.
Jesus is worth waiting for because He will free His people from the darkness of exile, prison, guilt, and shame. And free them for hope, free them to enjoy His covenant blessings, and to live in the life-giving light of the Father’s grace and truth, or in a word—His glory.
Christmas celebrates the birth of the Servant the Father promised in Isaiah 42. True to God’s word, Jesus was no ordinary child, even though He was born in a very ordinary way. Jesus was no ordinary son. He was God’s Son. Jesus was special because He lived up to His name. Jesus means “The Lord saves.” The shepherds in Luke 2:8-20 were watching sheep that would one day be sacrificed at the Temple. The night He was born, angels came and said to them “Peace on Earth, good will to men.” God was coming with forgiveness. The Lamb of God, who was symbolized by their flocks, and who would take away the sins of the world, was born. The Servant Savior had come.
Jesus’ initial arrival was so powerful that we are still feeling the aftereffects, even in today’s western culture. Think about it: there is something about Christmas that makes it different from every other holiday. For some reason, “because it’s Christmas,” we suddenly have the urge to do really strange and weird things. We do things at Christmas time that we wouldn’t be caught dead doing any other time of year.
At what other time of year could you hang lights on your house, your trees, your bushes, and set up lawn decorations for a month and be on good terms with your neighbors? When they built the Jordan’s Furniture in Reading, the neighboring town of Wakefield made them use lower wattage lighting than they had originally used because the people of Wakefield complained that the lights were so bright at night that it ruined the ambience of Lake Quannapowit. But instead of neighbors or calling the town to complain about houses that are awash in blinking lights and Christmas decorations, we call our friends and tell them, “You have to come out and see this, and bring the kids!”
Christmas moves us to set up trees in our living rooms and decorate them with things we never use any other time of year.
Christmas moves us to spend lots of extra money on gifts for friends and family that we don’t do on any other holiday.
What is it about Christmas that would make us want to come and stand and sing together on dark and cold winter’s night? If I were to invite you all to my house on a cold January night to walk around the neighborhood singing songs you all would think I was on drugs!
What is it about Christmas? What makes it different?
I think the reason is that God did something so amazing, so unique, so powerful, that we are still caught up in its effects today.
Now we are waiting for Him to come back. His kingdom has come but it is not yet done. And frankly it looks very under-done. How long is this going to take? What’s going on?
God’s answer is the same:
Wait for it! It’s worth waiting for. When it comes, you will be amazed! Don’t lose hope. Don’t give up. This is not a worldly hope, not a wish that something might happen. It is a hope that is built on the sovereign, unshakable, unbreakable power of the Father’s love for His Son. He is coming. The date has been set.
So what do we do while we wait for it?
We can not stress over it. We can live in the certainty of Jesus’ deliverance. Never judge God’s promises by your circumstances. Things looked pretty bad for Isaac when he was on the altar, but God delivered. Things looked pretty bad for Joseph when he was sold as a slave by his brothers, but God delivered. Things looked bad for Jonah when he was swallowed at sea, but God delivered. Jesus always delivers. It’s what He does.
Remember, life is about two lessons: you are not enough, and Jesus is enough. The only way we can be learning those lessons is to be in situations where it is clear we are not enough and if Jesus doesn’t come through we’re sunk! Don’t fear the dark of being blind, or cold of prison. Jesus came to give you sight, light to see by, and to free you from the dungeon.
That may be where we are (literally or figuratively), but it is not where we are going to be. God’s kingdom is a done deal. Its consummation is sure. That’s what the resurrection means. While we have our work in God’s kingdom, its coming to pass is not dependent on us. It is solely dependent on Christ, on what He did, and what He is doing. We can’t mess that up! So we can keep running the race with joy, because the race is fixed!
We can pray for it. When the disciples asked Jesus how to pray, He said, “thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus wants us praying for it. He wants us longing for it, desiring it, living for it, focused on it.
We can hope for it.
God says in Isaiah 65:17-25 (NLT):
Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more.
No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred! Only the cursed will die that young!…
For my people will live as long as trees, and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains. They will not work in vain, and their children will not be doomed to misfortune. For they are people blessed by the LORD, and their children, too, will be blessed.
I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers!…
In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the LORD, have spoken!
The new thing that God is doing is aimed at restoring what is broken. It is aimed at healing our brokenness. That is what Jesus is doing, He is restoring what is broken.
Your Father wants you to know, “You can put your hope in Me because I have not held back anything from you and have committed all that I am to insure that what I promise will come to pass. Nothing is greater than Myself, and that is what I have given you through the work of Jesus Christ. When you come to Me, you will have the righteousness of Christ given in place of your guilt, and you have Him as your Brother praying and advocating for you before Me. You will have My Spirit living and moving in you connecting you to Me at all times, and interceding for you every minute of the day. And you will have My promises to love you, to provide for you, to rescue you, to comfort you, to uphold you, to guide you, to strengthen you, and carry you home to Me without fail. All I have and all that I Am is yours because you are Mine, and I never forsake My own.”
That, that my friends, is hope. A hope you can get nowhere else. A hope you can get from no one else. It is a hope that can bring you through all the trials and heartaches that life can throw at you.
The truth is, while we may not know what’s coming next, Jesus does; and He and His Father are pumped about it. Wait for it. You’ll be glad you did.