This is the sermon for Sunday morning, October 4th 2009.

Ever increasing grace part 3

Romans 5:20b

Isaiah 40:1-11.

Romans 5:20b ESV – where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…

Isaiah 40:1-11 ESV – 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” 6A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.  9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

INTRODUCTION

This is the final sermon in our series, “Ever increasing grace.”  In this series we have been dealing with the subjects of sin and grace, and all we have really done is just barely scratch the surface.

We all know that sin is going to continue to get worse and people will continue to follow the dictates of their wicked hearts.  But according to Paul – while sin increases, grace increases all the more!

We have seen what Paul said concerning grace increasing in Romans 5.  We’ve also looked into the life of the wicked king of Judah – Manasseh.  We saw in the story of Manasseh how in his captivity, God humbled him and forgave him.

Now we are going to look into the wicked exiles of Judah and how God has given them grace; and this grace is a comfort.

Judah, like Israel, turned their back on God and became as vile and wicked as the heathen nations that surrounded them.  So God had them taken into captivity for 70 years, according to Jeremiah the prophet.  Jeremiah gives them some godly counsel in Jeremiah 29.  The exiles should build houses and settle down and have families while in Babylon.  They should also pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon.  At the end of the 70 years, God’s gracious hand would restore them because God has a plan to prosper Judah and Israel, not destroy them.

Jeremiah 29:10-14 ESV – 10“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Now in Isaiah 40, God is about to restore the exiles back to the land of Judah.  Isaiah 40 is a voice of grace and comfort for the exiles.

This morning, I want us to look at the comforting voice of grace found in these 11 verses.

Grace is a voice of comfort.

Isaiah 40:1-5 ESV – 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.  3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

First off God is preparing for Israel to return to the land and His holy mountain.  He has forgiven their sins and has prepared a way.

He ultimately prepared the way when He sent John the Baptist (v.3) to preach repentance and the coming of the Messiah – Jesus of Nazareth.

Now for us, how is grace a voice of comfort?  Well, the Hebrew for comfort nacham (na-kham) means, “to have pity, to console.”  Nacham is used to describe God as gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in love.

This was the complaint that Jonah had with God when he was sent by Him to prophesy over Nineveh.

Jonah 4:2 ESV – And he prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.

Paul also wrote about what Nacham describes.

Romans 2:4 ESV – do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?

How is grace a voice of comfort?

  • Grace declares our sins have been forgiven.
  • We receive from the Lord’s hands more grace than the sins we committed by our own hands.
  • God is the one who has prepared our way; not only back to Him, but He has also prepared our daily walk with Him.

Let’s now look at the second voice of grace from Isaiah 40.

Grace is the voice of confidence.

Isaiah 40:6-8 ESV – 6A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. 7The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the LORD blows on it; surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

For the exiles of Judah and Israel, they couldn’t depend on people, because people always fail one another and like the grass of the field, will fade away.  They could put all their hopes and confidence in God’s prophetic Word; it’s eternal and cannot fail.

This is true for the believer as well.  Our faithfulness to God, while important is not what keeps us:  Why?  Because our faithfulness is frail and fleeting at times. So what keeps us? It is God’s faithfulness toward us because His Word is eternal.  Not only is the Word of God eternal, but the Gospel we preach is eternal as well.

1 Peter 1:22-25 ESV – 22Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; 24for”All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls, 25 but the word of the Lord remains forever.”

Now let’s look at the last voice of grace.

Grace is a voice of conquest.

Isaiah 40:9-11 ESV – 9Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” 10 Behold, the Lord GOD comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him. 11 He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.

The exiles of Judah and Israel could have confidence that the conquesting power of God would deliver them.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we are humbly grateful for our Savior, who has triumphed over the enemy and our sin.

1 John 3:8b ESV – The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the Devil.

1 John 5:1-5 ESV – 1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. 2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. 3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. 4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith. 5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

While Jesus is our gentle shepherd, He is also the conquering King who has conquered death, hell, and the grave.

CONCLUSION

In your struggle with sin realize this:  God’s grace through Christ is greater than our sin.  Confess your sin and seek the Lord and ask for His gracious power to help you overcome.  Then put your absolute faith and trust in His power to help you overcome – because He has already overcome!

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