I Am the Lord

But there is a solution to a world where uncertainty rules about what comes next. There is a solution to a world where darkness and light battle. There is a solution to lives where the temptation to be destroyed seems so delectable. The solution is God. Into every hopeless situation and cunning deception, God shows Himself present.

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

October 17 and 18, 2020

“I Am The Lord”

Isaiah 45:1-7

Rev. John R. Larson

Ascension Lutheran Church  Littleton, Colorado


Have you learned anything in this last 7 months, during the pandemic?  Yes.  Never get down to the last roll of toilet paper in your house.  Yes.  Delivery for a cheeseburger and fries can be quite expensive.  Yes.  Don’t use the same barber’s blade on your head as you do on your beard.  It can make you look quite odd.

Yes.  I think we have learned that most difficult lesson that we are not in control of matters in this world or in our own life.  We live with more uncertainty now than we ever have.  And for many of us, losing what control we thought we had is most difficult. I hope that we are learning, with great joy, that while we are not in control, we trust God is.  In fact, He has always been in control and will stay in control of life until the very end.

But before I assure you at that great fact, I want to talk about the world now and during Israel’s time that asks the question whether God is truly present in these days.  For so many, maybe for you, there is no Divine hand involved in life’s activities.  Life has no design and no purpose – it is just a bunch of sloppy chaos.

Some look at the rise of evil in our day and bow their head in defeat, believing that evil is going to win the day.  They see the yin-and-yang method of life – the constant battle between darkness and light and conclude that for now evil is more powerful than the good.

I see the rise of hedonism in our day.  I always had the perception that evil laid in the shadows.  If someone was doing something wrong they would hide their actions, feeling some shame for doing something dirty.  That is not the case anymore.  A few Wednesday’s ago (October 7, 2020, 12A) in the Denver Post, Ashley Madison, a company known for their slogan, “Life is short. Have an affair.” took out a full-page ad, inviting folks to join them in their walk into darkness.  They said, “Many participants expressed feelings of boredom, loneliness, frustration, and fear during the pandemic and, as a result, sought self-fulfillment and care through other partners.”  They add, “One person isn’t always able to offer fulfillment in every aspect of an individual’s life, even if they’re your chosen lifetime partner.”  They go on in the next paragraph, “{This} opens the door for extra marital affairs to provide options.”

What a bunch of crap!!  Do you know what happens when an affair occurs?  Families are destroyed.  Marriages end.  Children don’t get to have an intact family.  Guilt and remorse are the constant diet of the one who listened to such drivel.  The other partner gives up on marriage and trust and respect and joy.  When we, not God, are in control of our marriages and how we must stay faithful, we have the wrong person driving our mind, soul, body and life.

But there is a solution to a world where uncertainty rules about what comes next.  There is a solution to a world where darkness and light battle.  There is a solution to lives where the temptation to be destroyed seems so delectable.  The solution is God.  Into every hopeless situation and cunning deception God shows Himself present.

Our reading from Isaiah 45 finds God’s chosen people in a hopeless situation.  They had been taken as captives from Jerusalem to Babylon some 50-60-70 years before this and they were locked in the city.  And the Babylonians didn’t give their prisoners the key!!

Babylon was the most fortified city in the world at that time.  You could get to the innermost wall, which was 21 feet thick, once you made it through the 11 feet thick outer wall, and only when once you got over the moat.  But I guess that 360 watchtowers, spaced every twenty yards, would probably give some warning of anyone who was going to come to attack, or even free, the Hebrew slaves.

In control?  Having any hope for anything different, or better?  No.  Except God gave a word that changed things.  “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.”  (Isaiah 45:5)  In this short section of but 7 verses, the phrase, “I am the Lord” (45:3,5,6) is used three times.

They would never get back to Jerusalem.  They would never get to celebrate the Passover or Yom Kippur there ever again.  They would only be able to live in memories of how life once was.  There would be no “normal” for them again.  Except God reminds them, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.”  (Isaiah 45:6c)

“I am the Lord” is the equivalent of the New Testament phrase, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  (Matthew 19:26) The Jews were stuck, but God had a plan.  And God promised to use a man, who hadn’t even been born yet, to be their deliverer.  Isaiah 45, “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron.”  (Isaiah 45:1-2)

King Cyrus, a Persian, came to the gates of Babylon and those bronze doors to this fortified city, opened, without even a battle.  Cyrus and his armies were welcomed into one of the greatest cities in the ancient world.  And the Jewish people were allowed to return to their land, establish their city and pray that God would send them the Anointed One – the Savior.  God, all at once, showed that He was in control.

God used a man who wasn’t even a believer to do His work.  God says of this, “For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me.  So that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know that there is none besides me.  I am the Lord, and there is no other.”  (Isaiah 45:4-6)  In 1879 the Cyrus Cylinder was found in this region.  It contains the words of Cyrus from 539 B.C. speaking about his triumph over Babylon.  But he doesn’t acknowledge God as his god, but the Mesopotamian god Marduk.  “Though he doesn’t acknowledge me…”

I’m not in control – though I desperately want to be.  And you’re not in control – though you’d like to be.  But God is.  He always has been.  He always will be.  He has Isaiah in about 700 B.C. tell us that a king named Cyrus would come and bring relief and safety to His people, Israel.  In 539 B.C. – 160 years after telling us of it and giving us the name of the deliverer, Cyrus – it happened.  He assured His people of His plan.  “I am the Lord.”  “I am the Lord.”  “I am the Lord.”

Cyrus was given quite a title from God.  “Anointed one.”  That is the exact same name of “Christ”, “Messiah.”  Pagan Cyrus is allowed to share the same title as the one given to Jesus.  Unthinkable!!  But at that moment God allowed him to serve as a deliverer.  But one title that Cyrus did not receive, but Jesus had, was “Servant”.  Suffering Servant.

Isaiah, just 7 chapters later, would talk about a God who would be in control of not just a physical deliverance from Babylon but an eternal deliverance from sin.  His Anointed One would come as servant giving an eternal deliverance from the consequence of us controlling our life without Him.  “See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.  Just as there were many who were appalled at him – his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness…Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  (Isaiah 52:13-14, 53:4-5)  Jesus, by His own will, in control of offering Himself for us, carried our sorrows, forgave our sins, and brought us peace.

Today is a great day.  Today we can say with joy that we are not in control.  God is.  He comforts us with those 4 big words, “I am the Lord.”  Have courage, the one who said, “I am the Lord” is your Lord.  Amen!!

1 comment

  1. Norm & Linda Finfrock says:

    Such a good sermon for the times we are living through !


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