Beckett: Sermon – The Faithful Minority

Date: June 19, 2022
Festival: 2nd Sunday after Pentecost
Text: Isaiah 65:1-9
Title: The Faithful Minority
Preaching Occasion:
Zion Lutheran Church, Mt. Pleasant, MI, and CTKLC
Appointed Scriptures: Isaiah 65:1-9; Galatians 3:23-4:7; Luke 8:26-39
Sermon Hymn: LSB #825 Rise, Shine, You People

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Law in the World

Think back to a time when, or imagine how painful it would be, if your spouse, significant other, child, or anyone you love wanted absolutely nothing to do with you. Imagine them always giving you the cold shoulder, ignoring you and rejecting you all the time. Your desire is for them to seek your presence, and whenever they’re in need you say, “Here I am!” Every day you open your arms for a warm embrace, but they ignore you and walk in a lifestyle that you know is harming them. They constantly do what is right in their own eyes, deaf to your beckoning calls to return to your loving embrace.

Even worse, they provoke you to your face; it doesn’t shame them to do what they know is wrong in your eyes. And the fact that it provokes you moves them to do it more. They defile themselves; they perform abominable acts. They might even say, “I’m too good for you. I’m better than you. I know what is right for me; you can’t tell me what to do. I’m seeking my truth.” Even though we may warn them that they are sinning against God and will suffer both temporal and eternal consequences if they don’t repent, they refuse to listen. And they accuse you of being judgemental when you call sin what it is: sin.

Law in the Text

 Such experiences of rejection and abandonment, I think, can help us understand to some extent what it was like for God when His people Israel rejected and abandoned Him and what it is like when people continue to rebel against Him. We hear of such a time in our Isaiah reading. God desires to be sought and found by His chosen people who want nothing to do with Him. God constantly made Himself known to His people—from His clothing Adam and Eve, to His preserving Noah through the Flood, His close relationship with Abraham and Joseph, the plague miracles, the exodus from slavery in Egypt, the pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night, the splitting of the Red Sea, His physical manifestation on Mt. Sinai and as a cloud in the Tabernacle, and even through His chosen Prophets who preached His Word. Through these obvious means of His presence, God extended His hands to His people, but they constantly rebelled against Him. They ignored Him and despised His Word preached to them through His Prophets. They continued to worship false gods and do what is right in their own eyes—to seek their own truth.

By doing such things, they provoked Him to His face; it didn’t shame them to do what they know is wrong in His eyes. The Law was no longer a mirror that revealed their sin and their need for a Saviour because they shattered the mirror of the Law so that they wouldn’t have to confront their own wickedness. They defiled themselves by doing what the Law forbids, such as making inappropriate sacrifices and eating pig flesh and tainted meat. They proclaimed sacred autonomy, saying, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you” [v. 5a], even though inwardly they were unclean and evil.

God was not pleased with them, of course. “These are a smoke in My nostrils,” He said, “a fire that burns all the day” [v. 5b]. If you’ve ever sat at a campfire or bonfire and had a bunch of smoke go up your nose, you know what you do. You turn your face away because it’s irritating. Such was Israel; they were such an irritation to God that He turned His face from them. And He makes a threat that He promises to follow through on, “I will not keep silent, but I will repay; I will indeed repay into their bosom both your iniquities and your fathers’ iniquities together” [v. 6]. His people have turned from Him in many and various iniquitous ways, and He warns that He will not remain silent for long but will repay their iniquities and even the sins of their fathers upon them. Babylon and Assyria would be the instruments of His wrath. War is coming for Israel, and the survivors would be taken from their homeland and into exile.

Gospel in the Text

But… God hears the voice of the faithful minority. God says of this faithful minority, “As the new wine is found in the cluster, they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it’” [v. 8]. The owner of a vineyard does not throw out an entire cluster of grapes if some of them are dried up or rotten because there are enough good ones left to make good wine. In the same way, the people essentially pleaded, “There is a faithful remnant, however small. Please spare us.” Hearing this quiet voice of His faithful minority, God responds with a promise, “So I will do for My servants’ sake and not destroy them all.” God made a promise to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob that He would make them into a great nation. Even though Israel will get what’s coming to them, He will preserve the faithful remnant. And indeed, He does. As we read in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, God returns this faithful remnant to their homeland from their exile in Babylon. They rebuild Jerusalem and restore their liturgical worship of Yahweh.

Ultimately, God preserves this faithful minority in Christ. The iniquities of all people—Jew and Gentile alike—are repaid in Christ. As Isaiah had preached in chapter 53[:5-6], “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities… the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This is why Paul would write to the Galatians, “the Law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptised into Christ have put on Christ” [3:24-27]. Like a child who has a guardian until he comes of age, so the Law was the guardian of God’s children until the coming age of Christ. In His death, He would take on the sins of Israel. In His resurrection, He would leave those sins in the tomb. And in His ascension, He is constantly making intercession for the forgiveness of the sins of His people. Thus, His people are no longer slaves but sons, and being sons of God, they are His heirs.

Gospel in the World

In our culture, it’s the vocal majority who often get what they want. You and I are part of the faithful minority, whose voices are drowned out by the vociferous iniquity of wicked people doing what is right in their own eyes. But like the few faithful in Israel, God hears your voice. The boisterous wicked may be shouting their pride and sacred autonomy, especially this June, but the wicked will receive the payment of their iniquity in due time. Meanwhile, God hears your voice. He hears your cries for salvation. He made a promise to you in Christ. All your sins were laid on Him when He died for you. Jesus is risen from the dead, and your sins remain in the tomb. And as your ascended Lord, He is making intercession for you every single day to grant you forgiveness of sins through His means of grace.

You will receive the Lord’s Supper in a few minutes in which you will consume the Lord’s forgiveness for your iniquities. And every day24/7—you are a baptised child of God, and if His child, an heir through God, meaning you are an heir of His inheritance, which, as Paul says in Romans 6, is a resurrection just like Jesus’, the Son of God, which is eternal life since Christ, too, lives forever. Therefore, since Christ has cast the devil out of you in your Baptism, you do as Jesus told the demon-possessed man, “Return to your home and declare how much God has done for you” [Luke 8:39]. Though you are the minority, you are the vocal minority who never stop telling the Good News of Jesus Christ wherever you are—that Jesus received the payment for your iniquities, that He became broken for your brokenness, that He has freed you from your sins that enslave you.

As the faithful minority, you suffer as all minorities have suffered: You are marginalised. Basic human rights and dignity are taken from you. You’re dehumanised and demonised. People tell lies about you just because of who you are, a Christian. Nobody listens to your voice. But God listens. God heard the cries of His people in slavery, and He answered with wrath against Egypt and redemption for His people. God heard the cries of His faithful minority, and He answered with returning them from slavery and exile in Babylon. God hears your voice, too. Though our culture wishes to enslave us to sins of pride, God will answer with wrath against them and redemption for His people.

The Hebrews waited 400 years for redemption from slavery. Yet it came. They waited for 70 years for redemption from exile. Yet it came. Every human creature waited for redemption from slavery to sin for roughly 4,000 years, maybe more. Yet Jesus came and took upon Himself the sins of every human being who would ever live, even yours. I respect the Catholic canon that says Jesus saw every sin committed by human beings when He was in Gethsemane, even that one sin that always seems to bite you, and yet He still decided to sacrifice Himself for humanity—for you. And now we continue to wait for the fullness of our redemption to come when Christ returns and ushers in the new creation. We’ve been waiting for almost 2,000 years, and who knows how much longer we’ll have to wait? Yet He is coming. Human history is a testimony to this certainty.

Just as the Book of Revelation ends, when we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” He hears this prayer of the faithful minority and responds with a promise, “Surely, I am coming soon” [Rev. 22:20]. Amen. Come, Lord Jesus, and grant us steadfast faithfulness during these times in which the wicked provoke You to Your face while we ourselves continue to praise and worship You alone, for You live and reign above all and for all with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

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