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Not the Same Old Thing (New Year's Eve)

[Read Isaiah 30:1-17] “………………. they are a rebellious people, lying children, children unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; who say to the seers, “Do not see,” and to the prophets, “Do not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions, leave the way, turn aside from the path, let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.” Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant……………………..”

Not the Same Old Thing

The people of Judah, the southern part of that divided kingdom, were cracking under pressure. Because of threats from the north, from the kingdom of Assyria, Judah looked south to make an alliance with Egypt. It was the same old story. When circumstances became difficult, God’s people turned to the world - to their former house of slavery - for refuge.

You remember. Centuries earlier, God had delivered His people from slavery in Egypt. But in the wilderness – though God provided the manna and the quail – His people desired and hoped to return to Egypt for the security of the meat-pots.

Now, some centuries later, God’s people have become a kingdom – now divided between north and south, Israel and Judah. The timeline in Isaiah is difficult to figure, but the words of our Old Testament lesson were written around the time – just before or just after – Israel, in the north, was taken captive by the Assyrian kingdom. And Judah in the south, as we said, is afraid of this northern threat.

God’s people want to go back to Egypt again. This time by a political alliance. Judah sees it as protection, but certainly Egypt would have the upper hand in such an arrangement. But, worst of all, Judah has abandoned its faith. They do not trust God through hard times, but instead look to what will help best according to their own human reason and understanding.

In today’s reading, God is rebuking Judah. Judah has become so committed to this plan of their own understanding that they no longer even want to hear God’s Word. Listen again to God’s rebuke against Judah:

“9they are a rebellious people …. unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord; 10 who say to the seers (a name for prophets), ‘Do not see,’ and to the prophets (those who speak for God), ‘Do not prophesy to us what is right (don’t tell us the right things); speak to us smooth things, prophesy illusions (tell us lies), 11 leave the way, turn aside from the path (you prophets, turn aside from the path so we can too) , let us hear no more about the Holy One of Israel.’”

So it is today. The same old thing – God’s people (us) losing heart in tough times, and so looking to the world and to plans of our own understanding.

The Church in our time today believes that the worse thing that can happen to it is that the world will reject it. Though Christ told us, time and again, that the world would reject us. Nevertheless, we think the world’s rejection of the Church is our downfall. So we devise a plan. We make an alliance.

Here’s the church’s plan and alliance: “Let us no longer speak what is right. Let us speak smooth things. Let us speak illusions (let us tell lies) so that people will hear and attend. Let us tell others that its okay if they leave the way, because they’ll still have a seat with us. Let them no longer hear from us about the Holy One of Israel. In this way, we’ll win the world’s friendship.”

“Let’s be with times. Let’s be on the right side of history. Let us make an alliance with the world’s way of thinking, because without the world how will we survive?”

Without Egypt, how would Judah survive? It’s the same old thing. What today is called “progressive” in the Church is really just the same old story.

In 2020, let us make sure that we do not do the same old thing. Instead, let’s do the always-new-thing of being faithful to the One who has been faithful to us – our God and Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Not only is a progressive alliance with the world’s thoughts and ways an unfaithful thing, it also fails. Those church bodies that have gone the progressive route, by all measurements, are in free fall. When the church allies itself with the world, the world always gets the upper hand.

God warned Judah that their alliance with Egypt would not work. Through Isaiah, God warns, “the protection of Pharaoh shall turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.” [Isaiah 30:3]

Like Judah turning back to Egypt, when we turn to make alliance with the world’s ideas and ways of thinking, we are only turning back to our old house of slavery from which God had once delivered us.

“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” [Colossians 1:13]. God “called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” [1 Peter 2:9]. “For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light” [Ephesians 5:8]. It’s not God’s kingdom which is dark, but the world out of which you’ve been called – a world which only thinks itself to be light.

What price has Christ paid to deliver you out of this world’s darkness? On the cross, Jesus died for my sin and the sin all the world, that I might be delivered from a dark world. In Him “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” [Colossians 1:14].

Be happy with the true light and true freedom God has given. Jesus’ death has freed us from sin. God’s Word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path [Psalm 119:105]. Not in the same old thing, but in the ever-new quality of the forgiveness of sins, and in the unchanging light of His Word, we walk.

You, brothers and sisters, are in Christ. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” [2 Corinthians 5:17]. In the truth of Christ, you are ever new. Therefore, do not succumb to the same old thing of sin. Amen.

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