Easter V (Rogation Sunday)
St. Paul’s Anglican Church
May 21, 2017
“The LORD Hath Redeemed”
The Prophet Isaiah is known as the “Fifth Evangelist” – and for very good reason! Seven-hundred years before Jesus Christ walked this earth Isaiah was enabled to see Him and hear Him almost as clearly as did Saints Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John!
There is, for example, one of the rare Old Testament references to the glorious Trinity found in verse 16 of this morning’s lesson, and in it the Prophet Isaiah records Jesus ahead of His incarnation as saying, “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit hath sent Me.” I hope we all caught that! It clearly states that the Father and the Spirit sent the Son. Salvation, as we all know, is the work of the entire Blessed Trinity!
Isaiah could see many other things by the gift of God as well. He could see the southern two tribes (Judah and Benjamin) being captured by pagan Babylon and the Chaldeans. He could see the temple ruined. He could see the land emptied!
He could also see the end of the exile and God’s destruction of the Chaldeans by one named Cyrus the Persian – and named him in his writings a full century before he ever came to power – or for that matter had even been born! This has, by the way, been a real burr under the saddle of the Biblical critics – who by presupposition will not allow God to enable predictive prophecy on the part of His servants the prophets! And yet, despite the critics’ protests to the contrary, the LORD allowed Isaiah to see the exiles finally repatriate their homeland before it ever took place! And Isaiah even encourages them so to do in the lesson before us this morning!
Go ye forth of Babylon, he writes in verse 20, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
It reminds me of the realization that swept over Corrie ten Boom when she was finally released from the Ravensbrűck concentration camp in 1945 – and walked away a “free woman.”.
When Isaiah writes the Lord hath redeemed His servant Jacob, he intends for his hearers to understand that the Almighty would redeem (He would buy back… He would bring back) the descendants of Jacob! They, at the time of their escape from bondage (250-years later) would sing these glorious lyrics of Isaiah — The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
And then Isaiah recalls the Biblical record from the Second Book of Moses, called Exodus (which means “The Way Out” or “The Road Out”). He is reminding one and all that just as God lovingly carried Moses and 2-3 million people through the hazards of the desert en route to the Promised Land, so He would do for the descendants of Jacob at the end of their captivity!
We might note what an unlikely individual Jacob was to receive such loving care from the Ancient of Days! His record is not that commendable!
First, there was the scheme he implemented and executed by which he obtained the birthright from his older brother, Esau.
Second, there was the stealing of the blessing which belonged to Esau. You remember the counsel of his mother who assisted him in this brazen act of theft!
Third, we cannot forget, of course, the deception he perpetrated against his own aged and “blind” father—Isaac — and the lies which he told him about being Esau! Wearing Esau’s clothes and of course, the mental picture we all have of the goat skins on his hands and neck!
Yet, we might discern that this is the whole point of the promise of deliverance – God delivers not those who deserve such kindness! Far from it! He delivers those who are foolish – like Jacob of old – who do not deserve deliverance! Acceptance with God is not through merit… it is through the mercy and the grace of the “greater party” — the Almighty! And He is faithful and just to continue that work in His people… which again they do not deserve.
We might remember that Jesus told the chief priests and elders of His day that tax collectors and harlots would enter the Kingdom of God before they would – and then he explained why! They believed the message of John the Baptizer and repented – while the chief priests and elders would not!
So with Jacob at the age of 130-years, the Bible tells us that by faith Jacob, when he was a dying blessed both the sons of Joseph – and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff! He was certainly a different man at the end of his life than he was at the beginning! And it was all by the mercy and the grace of God! The “schemer and the dreamer” was tamed by the Almighty and prepared for Heaven one step at a time – from glory to glory as St. Paul so aptly puts it (in II Corinthians 3:18)… from one level of glory to the next level of glory – incremental, almost like a stairway!
The English Reformers selected this Old Testament Lesson from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah for reading on the last Sunday of the Easter Season because they saw in it a perfect conclusion to the Easter Season! They saw a far greater outcome than the obvious one indicated by Isaiah when he wrote: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob. It was geometric in its scope. The deliverance mankind – including you and me! These remarkable words have been preserved in the Prayer Book for the final Sunday of the Easter Season – to remind us of this yet greater accomplishment of Jesus Christ.
Just as He saved the “fools” of Isaiah’s day and made them wise, so has He saved the fools of many generations and made them wise! And, lest we vault ourselves above all of this, we should remember that we were all fools without Christ – but now fools made righteous by the humility and care and merits of the Savior of the world! We have been brought near to the Lord (termed the Wisdom of God in the New Testament) – and made wise ourselves as His adopted sons and daughters.
He has opened Heaven’s gates to those who did not deserve it! And just like Jacob, of old, He carefully and patiently works with us to heal us and cleanse us and clothe us and strengthen us so that each of us also will worship Him – leaning as it were on the top of our own staff.
Why? That, as the text tells us – our peace might be as a river! He is concerned for our well-being! It was the Italian poet, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) who observed from this a great truth: His will is our peace.
And so we prepare to leave the Easter Season this coming Thursday remembering these summary words: The Lord hath redeemed his servant Jacob. And so He has! He is Risen! He is Risen, indeed! Alleluia. Amen.