Scripture: Isaiah 43: 2 – 3a
Much of today’s atmosphere is wrought with fear, despondency, helplessness, hopelessness and confusion. Additionally, there are many people harboring thoughts God is punishing the world, it’s coming to an end soon, and at the very least, “He’s trying to tell us something.”
Our capacity to assemble as worshipping congregants has dropped from 250 to 50 to 10 to none, per the governor’s mandate. Doctor appointments, surgeries are being cancelled; people are forbidden from seeing their loved ones in nursing homes and hospital ICUs’.
We’re told to stay at home, distance ourselves six-feet from others, don’t shake hands, Disneyland is closed, and there’s a run on toilet paper, but liquor stores and cannabis shops remain open, along with other businesses deemed to be essential.
None of us are untouched by this pandemic; neither are any of us who number in the faithful of Christ are immune from feelings of unsureness and change. I’m not here, today to tell you God is out to get you. I’m not a judge. I’m not here to tell you prophetically that Jesus is coming in the next two weeks. The Bible says He’s coming, but that “no man knows the time or the hour.”
I am here to tell you about the ravages of SIN in our lives. That touchy, indicting, uncomfortable subject called sin! There’s a pandemic going on, but this is still the season of Lent. We are to be reminded to morally, spiritually, and physically give up something…like sin.
God does not like sin. It’s sin that disconnects us from a Holy God and sin that earns us the wages of death! The Word says, “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”
All of us have said something, thought something, or done something not pleasing to a Holy God!
All of us are standing in the need of prayer! “It’s me, it’s me, it’s me, Oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer.” We are to be reminded that, “God is not mocked,” sin is filthiness, “God don’t like ugly” and sin disconnects us from the favor of Almighty God! There’s a time to take our shoes off and recognize we “are standing on Holy ground!”
But more significant than that is a reminder there is such a thing as repentance, confession and forgiveness. We ought to thank God we can repent (Lord, I’m sorry!); thank God we can confess (Lord, I said it, I thought it, I did it!); thank God for forgiveness!
This is a thankful reminder that repentance and confession will absolve us of our sins! And no matter what law may be signed tomorrow or governmental restriction to come, it pales in comparison to letting our sins send us to hell!
This is a thankful reminder that “God sits high and looks low” and though we don’t know what may come tomorrow, “we know who holds tomorrow” and that’s the “Great I am!”
At the end of the 42nd chapter of Isaiah, God reminded His people of His anger with them.
Israel was just like some of us: wanting to know the Word, but not always wanting to follow it.
Wanting freedom from the laws, but not from our sinful ways! But in the first few verses of chapter 43, God expresses His comfort for them and gave them His promises.
Though they had messed up, He redeemed them, and called them His own! We mess up, but God can redeem us, pick us up, turn us around and plant our feet on solid ground! Verse 2 (NLT): “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.”
Don’t worry about pandemics: Viruses come and viruses go – but “God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Sicknesses come and sickness goes – but we still “have a friend in Jesus!”
Poverty comes and poverty goes; bereavement comes, and bereavement goes; presidents come and go; loneliness comes and goes; anxiety comes and goes; fear comes and goes; love comes and goes – but God still: “sits high and looks low!”
Verse 3 (NLT): “For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
We serve a loving God! A forgiving God! A delivering God! A saving God! A healing God! A comforting God! A redeeming God “who makes a way out of no way!”
If you’re a little despondent today, a little uncertain today, a little apprehensive today, don’t be fearful and don’t give up on God! He was here before we got here and will be here long after we’re gone! He knows your situation; knew of it before you did and left us a revelation from David, “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or its seed begging bread.”
If you’ve been up the rough side of the mountain, if you’ve been hungry, abused, lonely, and afraid be reminded, if it had not been for the Lord on your side, where would you be?
There’s a blessed assurance this Sunday morning that God is still smiling on us; still loving us; still guiding us, redeeming us and we’re still His. Our loving God is still accepting our repentance, our confessions and forgiving us of our sins. Any issue that affects us now, pale in comparison to unforgiveness, unrepentance and non-confession of sins that will send us to hell.
God saved Israel in the days of Isaiah just like He saves us, today! He forgave them, yesterday just like He forgives us, today! Held them in His bosom like He does us! Accused them but encouraged them! Just like He encourages us! Scolded them but cared for them – just like He does us!
How Pastor? By reminding us: “Greater is He that is within us than he that is within the world!” Reminding us, Jesus said, “He’d never leave us nor forsake us.” When we pass through deep waters: He’s with us! When we pass through rivers of difficulty: they won’t drown us! When we walk through fires of oppression: we’re not burned! “God is not a God that He should lie!”
We’ll get through this: Stay faithful! This is a reminder.
The Rev. Dr. Michael W. Eagle is the senior pastor of Grant AME Church in Long Beach.