Epiphany – Isaiah 52: All the ends of the earth will see God’s salvation
Watch the service
Christ Brings Consolation
And this is for you. Years ago I used to work on a paint crew. And we had a break every day for 15 minutes. And in those 15 minutes we would watch The Price Is Right. If there was a chance to win, the biggest prize, was always a “brand new car!” But, if it didn’t work out, the loser was sent home with a prize. They even had a name for it. They called it a “consolation” prize. Now think that through. The other guy gets “a brand new car!” And you get a toaster. Consolation—the word seems to fall very short of what it should. My dear friends in Christ is all about consolation—but not the game show kind. Here, on Epiphany, God gives us real consolation. We see this pictured for us and promised to us in the prophet, Isaiah: “7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” 8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices; together they shout for joy. When the Lord returns to Zion, they will see it with their own eyes. 9 Burst into songs of joy together, you ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people, he has redeemed Jerusalem.” (Is. 52:7–9 NIV11-GKE)
These words overflow with rejoicing. There are messengers running in from the mountains. And they bring good news. What is this good news? Your God reigns! Your God returns. And what is the great gift he is bringing with him? He brings consolation with him. And the source of this consolation is redemption.1 The word that Isaiah uses here is a very interesting word. First of all, it means to pay back the injustice. The Lord even put in place a part of his law to preach through actions what this redemption would look like. In the Old Testament, it was called the “Redeemer of blood.”2 And it looked like this: Let’s say you are out in the forest chopping down trees with your friend and neighbor. You swing you ax back and the ax head flies off and hits your friend in the head. He dies. And what do you do? You run to the nearest city of refuge. Why? For there was a blood relative whose job it was to find out and then avenge his family member’s blood. It was his job to hunt you down and get justice. You had a healthy head start though. So he arrived at the city of refuge. And there was a timely trial. And justice was exacted.
So my dear friends in Christ, what that does that have to do with Christ? What consolation is there today if consolation is just a word? For, through Adam and Eve sin has come to all. It has hurt their lives and harmed their souls. If we’ve lived long enough, each of us has been hurt by others. And that hurt demands justice. But we aren’t the ones to get that vengeance and Justice. Jesus is. For we aren’t able to see the extent of the damage. And, if it were in our hands, we would overpay the punishment. So there is consolation in the fact that the one who came to earth will come again to judge the living and the dead. There will be consolation in the fact that the hurt and harm that came to all would be seen to and paid for. That’s why Christ brings Consolation: consolation that sin came to all. But there’s more: “The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.” (Is. 52:10 NIV11-GKE)
Christ brings consolation that sin came to all. But in these words we see that there’s even more consolation to be found. For Christ brings consolation that sin came at all. This morning I’d like you to think through a question with me. For I have asked the question many times in my life. And I’ve had others ask me it too. Why did sin have to come into the world at all? If God is omnipotent and omniscient, couldn’t have have just stopped Satan in the garden before the damage started? Shouldn’t he have? Our good and gracious Lord answers that question—but not in the way we might expect. Our good and gracious Lord invites us to look here at this small little child in the manger. When we think about the fact that God could have, maybe even should have stopped the damage before it started, we turn our eyes and see God taking human flesh and blood. We see a Savior, who does not redeem us from afar, like us opening the garage door with a button while we are in our car or in our house. Being a sinner is messy. Being around sinners is messy. We drag ourselves down into the messy muck of our sin. And we drag others into that messiness along with us. And, far from staying away from the muck and messiness of our sin, he enters into the muck. Far from using the right hand of his holiness to purge us from existence, he enters our humanity. But unlike us, he is able to endure every one of our sins, moment by moment, stain by stain, and, in the end, redeem it.
That, my friends in Christ is what consolation looks like. He doesn’t send you home with a toaster when you needed a car. He doesn’t send you home with a good feeling that will soon evaporate when you get home. He sends you home this morning with consolation. Jesus deals with the fact that sin came to all. And by being tempted in every way and yet never being dragged down into the messy mud of our sin, he dealt with the fact that sin came at all. It’s not the answer we were looking for. But it’s one that fills us with consolation—true and lasting consolation. So today, sing wth all the saints of old. Sing with joy that that will last long after the organ is done playing this morning. For Christ brings Consolation. Jesus deals with the fact that sin came to all. Jesus deals with the fact that sin came at all. Amen.
1 ”גָּאַל“ (Is. 52:9 HMT-W4)
2 גֹּאֵל הַדָּם