The Glory Has Departed

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I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Second Mid-Week Advent Vespers Service, 2016

Second Mid-Week Advent Vespers Service, 2016
7 PM Central Standard Time

Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

The Hymn #554          Now Rest Beneath Night's Shadow
The Order of Vespers                                              p. 41
The Psalmody                       Psalm 92                    p. 143
The Lection                           Isaiah 53
The Sermon Hymn #645       Behold a Branch             

The Sermon – The Suffering Servant

The Prayers
The Lord’s Prayer
The Collect for Grace                                            p. 45
The Hymn # 558                 All Praise to Thee  


Isaiah 52:13 Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
14 As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
15 So shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.

53 Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.
The Suffering Servant

Today I was studying some of the Lutheran writers from the past, many largely forgotten. These were men from the history of the ELCA, so no one wants to remember their faithfulness to the Word of God. On the other hand, the Synodical Conference people (WELS-ELS-LCMS) do not want to acknowledge someone outside their own boundaries.
However, their works continue to be studied and reprinted because the truth of the Scriptures is timeless, just as the fads of the moment are locked into that era. I have watched many popular fads come and go. Nothing is so unloved as an old fad. But if something touches upon the eternal, its value is lasting and often discovered again and again.
Bach was forgotten after his era was over, but Mendelssohn said, "This musician is a genius." Now I see many people listing Bach as a favorite musician, along with the Grateful Dead and other celebrities. Bach was an orthodox Lutheran 
Moby Dick was hated in its own era and the few printed copies never really sold. When they burned in a fire, the publisher said, "No reason to reprint the lost ones, because they were not selling anyway." Decades later someone discovered the whale book again and it became required reading.  
The Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah were mysterious to the Jews for centuries, especially the reading for tonight. We can see how true that is, because the disciples did not see that before their eyes, not until all the events had unfolded. They were no different from the rest. The truth was so powerful and different that everyone was blind to it.
That is not strange, because the term King always bears the meaning of ruler and warrior. The combination is consistent throughout human history. Today many Third World rulers fashion themselves as military generals when they can fill that role or not.
Julius Caesar was first a successful Roman general, whose battles are still studied. In fact, some of his greatest successes are reproduced in animations so people can study how the descriptions of the battle looked.
As I wrote before, the concept of Messiah was wrongly associated with a soldier because descending from King David suggested battle. Judas Maccabeus and two zealot leaders after Jesus were the three Messianic pretenders who werenot the real Messiah.
The real Messiah was a different kind of King - "My Kingdom is not of this world." Jesus was not limited by the human concept of kingship. All governments fade away. All empires end. So many powerful kingdoms have passed away that people cannot remember them all.
One brilliant writer recorded the 1100 year history of the Byzantine Empire. The summary is good for three thick volumes. He wrote, "By the time I had finished this work, I was already forgetting some things that I had written in it." After all, how does one remember 11 centuries of history? And most do not know any of this.
We associate influence with power - how much territory is controlled, how many soldiers are armed, how many lethal weapons are developed. The Byzantine Empire had a liquid flame-thrower that terrified its enemies. 
The Suffering Servant is the opposite of all this. Jesus' greatest work was not one of power in the normal sense, but apparent weakness - allowing the forces of religion and state to torture and kill Him. All the worst aspects of abandonment were felt, but this was consistent with His birth. 
Instead of being born in a royal palace, He came to us in apparent weakness and poverty, so that the trappings of power would not frighten or repel us. 
Likewise, the description of Jesus in this passage can make us sympathetic with those who could not see the Messiah there - before it happened.
The passage begins with the repellent image of the tortured Servant. After the introduction, this is repeated with the question, "Who will believe our report?"
That question is repeated by Paul in Romans 10, because report is the equivalent of sermon. When people speak about how Jesus came into our world, born of a Virgin, dying for our sins, this account - sermon - report is the sermon that creates and sustains faith.
Romans 10:12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.
13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?
15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report?
That is the difference between human history and the Gospel story. Human history has many variations, such as the five different reasons offered for Napoleon losing the Battle of Waterloo. But the Report is one story, God's revelation, and this story has converted millions to faith in Jesus Christ the Savior.

The Report in Isaiah is that this horrible torture and death would have a reason - suffering and dying for our sins.
This claim, at first glance, seems hard to get across - except for the worship God directed  Israel to conduct. They sacrificed spotless lambs for their sins. They acknowledged he Passover Lamb that led to their freedom from Egypt and settling in the Promised Land.
So the concept of an innocent sacrifice for sin was embedded in Israel for centuries before the Son was incarnate by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary. What seems illogical from the outside is clearly consistent with centuries of the Word and worship. Even today, those who know little about Judaism are aware of the Day of Atonement. That was October 11 this year.
So the purpose is well established in Isaiah 53. But the details are also spelled out so that no one can deny them. Jesus 
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.
He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.
Apart from all the other details, in how many incidents do we have where this could be true? - He was punished as a wicked man, the worst kind of criminal, and yet he was buried as if He were a wealthy man of respect.
This is an example of God's wisdom, that He gives us a Report that inspires and nurtures faith. When our Old Adam, fed by sceptics and scoffers, says, "How could this all be truth," the revelation itself teaches us.
  1. All the details are correct.
  2. They occur throughout the Old Testament and are repeated in the New Testament.
  3. They teach us the love, mercy, and forgiveness of God the Father and the grace of Jesus Christ His Son, the Report witnessed by the Holy Spirit.
The Bible gives us a history that telescopes outward, far into the future - the Great Judgment - and back down to microscopic views, each and every detail necessary for us to know.  
Most important, this all shows us that we have a purpose, because this Report shows us God's purpose. We are part of His plan, in spite of suffering, health problems, rebukes, set-backs, and all kinds of anxiety.
We are still in His hands and part of His purpose, as the Word shows us.