8th Sunday after Pentecost July 23, 2023
2 Timothy 1:3-10
Worship Supplement 2000�#773, 496, 507, 49
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: Almighty God, You have called Your Church to witness that in Christ You have reconciled us to Yourself. Grant that by Your Holy Spirit we may proclaim the good news of Your salvation so that all who hear it may receive the gift of salvation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
In the name of our Ascended Lord, Jesus Christ, who says, “You are my witnesses,” grace and peace be with you in His saving name, dear fellow redeemed,
When you hear the word, “witnessing” what comes to mind? A witness is someone who tells what he or she heard or saw. As Christians we are called to be witnesses of Jesus, that is, to tell others about His life, death, and resurrection. How do you feel about witnessing your faith to others? Are you excited at the thought of it or terrified?
You are called to be Christ’s witnesses. How comfortable are you with that concept? How ready are you to tell others about Jesus? Do you worry about what you would say? Remember, a witness is simply someone who tells what they have seen and heard. You have heard many things about Jesus from the Bible, most of you from your childhood through today. This morning in our text from Isaiah 43, we hear God talking about this very thing. So let’s consider the theme of being “witnesses of the one true God.”
Bring out the people who are blind, though they have eyes,
and the people who are deaf, though they have ears.
Let all the nations be gathered together,
and let peoples be assembled.
Who among them has declared this?
Who has made known to us the former things?
Let them produce their witnesses to show that they were right,
so that people can hear and say, “This is truth.”
You are my witnesses, declares the LORD.
You are my servant, whom I have chosen,
so that you may know me and believe in me,
so that you will understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
and after me there will not be another.
I, yes I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior.
I myself declared it.
I brought salvation, and I announced it.
It was not some strange god among you.
You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and I am God.
Indeed, from the first day, I am he.
There is no one who can deliver anyone from my hand.
I act, and who can reverse it? (EHV)
This is the Word of God.
Have you ever been mystified by the behavior of the Old Testament Children of Israel? Though God delivered them from slavery in Egypt, three months later they built a golden calf and began worshiping it, saying the golden calf delivered them from the Egyptians. Though the LORD provided them with free food six days a week, they grumbled about that worthless bread. Though their eyes had seen the LORD do many amazing things and their ears had heard His many promises, they often seemed spiritually blind and spiritually deaf. That is what the LORD is speaking of in the first verse of our text. He refers to them as people “who are blind, thought they have eyes…deaf though they have ears.”
But God needs witnesses. He needs someone to testify to what they have seen and heard. And so in verse 8, He says He will bring them out to testify. Verse 10, “You are my witnesses, declares the LORD. You are my servant, whom I have chosen, so that you may know me and believe in me, so that you will understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed and after me there will not be another.” And, again, in verse 12, “you are my witnesses, declares the LORD.” Who better to be witnesses of the one true God than those who had seen and heard all the things the LORD had done for them? They would be His witnesses.
Having called Israel as witnesses to testify what they had seen and heard about the LORD, in verse 9 God calls on all the nations of the world and the people of the world to testify what they had seen and heard with their own gods. Verse 9, “Who among them has declared this? Who has made known to us the former things? Let them produce their witnesses to show that they were right, so that people can hear and say, ‘This is truth.’” For a god to be a real god, he would have to be all-knowing. Evidence of being all-knowing would be the ability to know both the past and the future.
So, as the LORD calls on the nations to bring forward their gods to testify, how many of them were able to declare the things to come? Could the golden calf that the Israelites worshiped at Sinai prophesy of future events? Could Baal or Ashtoreth? Could the golden statue of Nebuchadnezzar or Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines?
We could apply the same test today. Has Allah of the Muslim religion prophesied of future events which came true? What about the thousands of gods that the Hindus worshiped? Have they spoken and it came about? “Let them produce their witnesses to show that they were right.” Of course not, because these gods come from the imagination of man. Man can’t even get the weather forecast for next week correct, much less events that will happen 100 or 1000 years in the future.
If you apply that same test to the God of Holy Scripture, the evidence is overwhelming. Here in Isaiah 43, the LORD speaks of the Babylonian captivity. This captivity won’t happen for another 100 years. But in the opening of Isaiah 43, God promises to bring Israel back safely from captivity and at the end of Isaiah 43 God promises to level Babylon. “Who among them has declared this?” the LORD asks in verse 9.
Or think of all the prophecies made about Jesus. In Micah, the LORD said the Savior would be born in Bethlehem. Earlier in Isaiah, God promised that He would send a Savior from a virgin, and on Christmas Christ was born of the virgin Mary…in Bethlehem. In Psalm 22, God said that the hands and the feet of the Savior would be pierced and one thousand years later on Good Friday, Jesus was nailed hand and foot to the cross. In Psalm 16, God said that the son of David would rise from the dead, and on Easter Jesus rose. And we could go on and on, listing over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that were clearly fulfilled through Jesus in the New Testament.
And so we read in verse 12, “I myself declared it, I brought salvation, and I announced it. It was not some strange god among you. You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, I am God.” The verdict is in. There is no God but the LORD. He alone makes prophecies and fulfills them. You are all witnesses that this is true.
God is all-knowing and He knows the future. But that is not all that the all-knowing God knows. He who knows all about the future also knows all about us. He knows all the ways we have sinned against Him—even those secret sins that no one else knows about. He knows how we have broken the commandments that HE has given us. He knows those sins that we don’t even realize we have done.
And yet, what has the God who knows all these things done? Verse 12, “I brought salvation, and I announced it.” The one true God, the one against whom we have sinned, He is also the one who brought salvation. The moment after sin and death entered the world, God announced the salvation He would bring. To Eve He announced that He would send a Savior from the seed of the woman. To David, He announced that from David’s family the Savior would be an eternal king who would rescue us from death.
Not only did the one true God make announcements about our salvation, but He personally brought it about. The Son of God Himself became man, born of Mary, who was of the house and lineage of David. Jesus, fully God and fully man, came to bring us salvation. He did this by taking our sin on Himself and being punished in our place. Through Him we are forgiven. By rising from the dead, Jesus defeated our enemy of death. Now death has no power over us. We too shall rise. God announced our salvation and brought it about.
Look, then, at the end of our text. In verse 13: “I act, and who can reverse it?” Who can undo the works of God? Do you know? No one! No one can reverse the acts of God. What God said in Isaiah 43 about Babylon would certainly happen. But apply this also to God’s act of saving you. No one can undo Jesus’ death on the cross. No one can reverse the resurrection and put Jesus back in the tomb and seal the door. This means no one can reverse God’s act of saving you from your sins and giving you eternal life! Praise God!
What other god of this world, what other religion of this world claims such a thing? The religions of this world have gods who demand you save yourself. In Islam, you have to say the perfect prayer to Allah and give your life as a sacrifice to him. In the Eastern Religions, you have to reach nirvana by meditating just right and finding an inner balance. The gods of the nations do not bring about salvation for their people, but are told that they must save themselves.
Therefore, God declares in verse 11, “I, yes I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior.” Jesus is the only Savior. Peter says the same thing in Acts 4, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) You are witnesses that our God is the only God who saves.
None of this is new to you. These are things you have heard before.
You have heard before that God knows the future and made promises throughout the Old Testament that were fulfilled hundreds, even thousands of years later by Jesus. You know that the gods of the world cannot do that.
These are things you have heard and that you know. YOU are God’s witnesses. Don’t be afraid to tell others what you have heard, because you know that apart from the LORD there is no savior. Therefore, what God says in our text, He now say to you: You are my witnesses, declares the LORD. You are my servant, whom I have chosen, so that you may know me and believe in me, so that you will understand that I am he. And again, in verse 12, You are my witnesses, declares the LORD, and I am God. Praise be to God who saves us and makes us His witnesses of His salvation! Alleluia. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Holy Bible, Evangelical Heritage Version® (EHV ®) © 2019 The Wartburg Project. All rights reserved. Used by permission.