Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Advent Midweek Sermon: "Better Than Isaac"

+ Wednesday of Advent 2 – December 7, 2011 +
Text: Genesis 26

In the Name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

            Drought. Famine. Horrible Economy. Families in trouble and in need. Moses could have been reporting today’s news for the OC Register. But that was life according to Genesis 26. Egypt had all the goods. The grass was greener, literally. Wealth. Livestock. Food enough to make famine a dinner time joke. And relative security, at least, compared to Isaac’s friendly Philistine neighbors – “sure Isaac, we’ll watch your house while you’re out searching for a water hole.”
            The Egyptians have their comfort and the Philistines have their kingdom but the son of Abraham has nowhere to rest his head. Egypt appeared to have it all and yet the Lord appears to Isaac and says: “Do not go down to Egypt; dwell in the land of which I shall tell you. Sojourn here. I will be with you. I will bless you. I will establish the oath I swore to your father Abraham.”

            Isaac was the son of the Promise, the seed of Abraham, who was to inherit the land. But how will the Lord’s promise be fulfilled in a land that is anything but promising – full of drought and famine and enemies around every corner? Isaac’s offspring was to be multiplied like the stars of the heavens. But how will the Lord’s promise to have many sons come true if Isaac is traveling around without any place to call home, let alone raise a family? Isaac was to be the recipient of blessing, the one through whom the Lord would bless all nations on the earth. But how will the Lord’s promise to bless all nations come true when it appears that the land cursed as far as the eye can see?

            In a drought stricken land, surrounded by men with murder in their hearts and lust in their eyes – it would have seemed logical to head for the green grass of Egypt. But the wisdom of men is made foolish by God and the foolishness of God is the greater wisdom. “Stay here,” the Lord says. Have you so quickly forgotten how foolish my wisdom looked when you were carrying the wood for the sacrifice? Fear not. I rescued you then. I will rescue you now. Sojourn here. I will be with you. I will bless you. I will establish the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.”

            And what did Isaac do? He stayed. The Land. The promise. The offspring. Isaac and his family - They all belonged to the Lord. Even so, the Lord blessed them. Isaac sowed and the land produced a hundred-fold the next year, a bumper crop. He grew richer and wealthier. His flocks and household grew larger. The Philistine king even declared protection over his family.
            Isaac came to understand God’s foolish wisdom – at least foolish in the eyes of the world – that the blessings of God are found where God seems not to be…yet precisely where He has promised to be. This is true throughout the OT:
            Abraham was as good as dead and Sarah was barren – yet the Lord gave them Isaac even when His promise seemed laughable; unto Abraham and Sarah a child was born, a son was given.
            Moses was a stuttering, fearful man – and yet through him the Lord led his people out of Egypt through the wilderness to the edge of the very land he had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
            Jesse’s family tree was nothing but a stump: the people were in exile, they had forgotten the Lord and whored after other gods – and yet, from this stump, the root of Jesse, David’s righteous Branch would shoot forth with new life.

God works the same way in the NT:
            A Virgin is found pregnant and nearly divorced – and yet there in the womb of Mary, the Lord himself appears in the  flesh and blood of Mary– Immanuel, God with us - just as Isaiah foretold.
            An infant boy, clothed in the weakness of human flesh, a child utterly dependent upon his mother for food, security and life – and yet Mary and all people are utterly dependent upon this child for food, life and everlasting peace.
            Thin wafers of bread, ordinary wine and tap water, words read from a page – and yet there God is doing his greatest work, Christ Crucified comes to bless you to fulfill the oath he swore to A, I and J.
            He comes not in the enthusiasm of men or the strength of their eloquence…but right where God promises to be…in His Word just as He spoke to Isaac.

            This Advent, where do you look for God’s blessings? Sure, God’s promises to Isaac sound all well and good, we say. But you can’t eat a promise. That won’t pay the mortgage or find me a job. Besides, God appeared to Isaac and Abraham had dreams and visions and Jacob had angels visit him. I haven’t seen any of that lately. If only God appeared to me in a dream or a vision or in person right now…then I’d believe his promises.
            It is as St. Augustine once said, “Our hearts are restless, O Lord, until we find our rest in thee.” You and I, we’re not so different from Isaac after all. We look for God’s blessings in all the wrong places. We begin not with the richness of the Word of God or his promises…but in the poverty of our heart. And out of our sinful heart comes all vanities of earthly pleasures enough to make the Philistines blush. We fear, love and trust in anything but God’s promises. And yet, we’re restless. We want more. We crave our gods like a drug. Until we overdose and die.

            And there in our death. Christ comes to save us by his death.
            The sin of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Your sin. Your neighbor’s sin. The sin of the world. All the drought. Famine. Illness. Grief. Shame. Broken lives and brokenness of creation. Jesus takes it all into himself in his death on the cross, fulfilling his oath to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and to you. There in human flesh, crucified on the cross, God is working his greatest blessing where God seems not to be; yet where has promised to be. He takes the poverty of your sinful heart – crucifies it with Him and gives you a new heart.
Just as God promised Isaac before so too he works for you now: precisely where He has promised to be, among sinners, for sinners. For you.

            You are mistaken who think that God no longer appears among his people. God appears before you stronger, clearer and in more numerous ways than he did for Isaac. Does he not appear before you in the humility of His Word? Does he not visit you in the waters of Holy Baptism making you His child? Has he not sent you messengers, known as pastors, who declare God’s promises to you? And does he not sojourn among you with his own flesh and blood to feed your flesh and blood in the Supper? There’s one promise of God you can eat.
            He has and he will continue to do it. He did it for Abraham and Isaac; and He does it for you. God is here again working his great blessings where God seems to not to be…but it is precisely where He has promised to be.

            Indeed, you have it better than Isaac. Whereas Isaac was spared the sacrifice, Christ would not spare himself for your sake. Whereas Isaac hoped for the Promised Land, Christ comes again to usher in a new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness. Your home in Christ.
            Whereas Isaac, along with the OT saints, awaited Christ’s birth – his first Advent, We await his second advent in confidence because of his first Advent in human flesh.
            That is why we approach Christmas with unrestrained, jubilant, rejoicing. God’s promise to Isaac is here. The Seed of Abraham long expected has come. The blessing, the promise, the daily bread – all that you seek, all that you need, all that causes you to be restless is found in Christ. Your rest is found in Him who found you.
            The one who came in the flesh. The one who comes to you now. The one who will come again in glory. Says to you, “Sojourn here. I will be with you. I will bless you. I will establish the oath that I swore to your father Abraham.”

In the Name of the Father and of + the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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