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WE CAN MAKE SOME THINGS BETTER TODAY, WHILE WE WAIT FOR THE PERFECT TO COME, TOMORROW

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

9 JULY 1995

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Samuel 15:20-23
Isaiah 66:1-24
Matthew 5:48
2 Corinthians 6:16

Do you remember last week's discussion about putting conditions on our "unconditional" love?

Do you also remember what Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:48?

48. "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

We don't do justice to God's love for us if we simply accept the fact that we aren't perfect and cease striving to be perfect.

Last week we ended our discussion by looking, through the eyes of Isaiah, at the future perfect world, in which, again, as in the beginning, there will no longer be any death.

And as we said, we can hasten that day to come and have a taste of it in the here and now, if we work toward it.

Today, with the help of Isaiah, let's take a further look at a more perfect world (Isaiah 66:1-24):

1. Thus says the Lord,

"Heaven is My throne, and the earth is My footstool.

Where then is a house you could build for Me?

And where is a place that I may rest?

It is not houses of worship made of wood and stone that the Lord desires us to build.

We are to build a different kind of place of worship, the kind that Paul wrote about to the Corinthians in his second epistle (2 Corinthians 6:16):

16. Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,

"I will dwell in them and walk among them;

And I will be their God, and they shall be My people.

We are to be the temples of God!

We are to set the example of perfect Godly living to the world around us.

It's not someone else's responsibility, its our's.

As we return to our Isaiah passage, listen to what the Lord says:

2. "For My hand made all these [physical] things,

Thus all these things came into being," declares the Lord.

"But to this one I will look,

To him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word.

God will look to us who have made ourselves into His temple.

In the ancient Hebrew Law it tells us that a person who sins is to repent and make a sacrifice of an innocent animal, that the soul of the innocent animal might redeem the sinner’s soul.

But killing became too easy, for people lost their feelings of compassion for the animals and, thus, they continued sinning.

But here in Isaiah's view of a more perfect world, Isaiah expresses the true feelings of God toward those who try to buy their way into heaven and out of the death brought about by their sins.

3. "But he who kills an ox is like one who slays a man;

He who sacrifices a lamb is like the one who breaks a dog's neck;

He who offers a grain offering is like one who offers swine's blood;

He who burns incense is like the one who blesses an idol.

As they have chosen their own ways,

And their soul delights in their abominations,

These practices have become abominations.

God desires obedience and not sacrifice, and if make a mistake, He wants us to truly repent and go forth and sin no more.

We are to soften our hearts.

We are to turn from our evil ways.

We are not to try to appease God by offering a sacrifice to cover our sin.

We are to sin no more.

We are to be loving, kind, and compassionate peacemakers in the world around us for the benefit of the whole of creation (humans, non-humans, and the environment).

King Saul made this mistake. He thought that if he brought a sacrifice before the Lord, he could have the Lord accept anything he did; but he was wrong!

Note the conversation between Saul and Samuel in 1 Samuel 15:20-23:

20. Then Saul said to Samuel, "I did obey the voice of the Lord, and went on the mission on which the Lord sent me, and have brought back Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites.

21. "But the people took some of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the choicest of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God at Gilgal."

If they were devoted to destruction, then those things should have been destroyed.

22. And Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

As in obeying the voice of the Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,

And to heed than the fat of rams.

23. “For rebellion is as the sin of divination,

And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry.

Because you have rejected the word of the Lord,

He has also rejected you from being king.”

Unfortunately, very few people listen; thus, they face the wrath of God.

This is the very point that Isaiah is presenting for the Lord, as we pick up our passage at verse 4 (Isaiah 66:4):

4. So I will choose their punishments,

And I will bring on them what they dread.

Because I called, but no one answered;

I spoke, but they did not listen.

And they did evil in My sight,

And chose that in which I did not delight.”

The Lord has given us a heart and soul that is fully capable of unconditional love and compassion, a heart and soul that is capable of understanding the full intent of the Lord's desire for our lives.

He has done this so that we would work to make this world a little more loving and compassionate, a little more like Heaven.

And if we all tried, maybe it would be.

Unfortunately, most people choose to disobey.

We choose to be hard of heart.

But the Lord knows the truth, even when we fake it in our houses of worship.

5. Hear the word of the Lord, you who tremble at His word:

"Your brothers who hate you, who exclude you for My name's sake,

Have said, 'Let the Lord be glorified, that we may see your joy.'

But they will be put to shame.

For some strange reason, people who are loving and compassionate are labeled as kooks in this world and even in many churches, and they are even shunned when they try to tell the truth.

But do not feel rejected.

Keep on being loving and compassionate.

In a short while, those who are hard of heart will be put to shame, no matter how much they profess outwardly to be Godly, for the Lord knows the intent of the heart.

6. "A voice of uproar from the city, a voice from the temple,

The voice of the Lord who is rendering recompense to His enemies.

Yes, the hard of heart, even in our churches and synagogues, are also considered to be enemies of the Lord.

Then Isaiah compares the coming of New Jerusalem, a new heaven, and a new earth, to being born from what is here on earth, which should include believers.

7. "Before she travailed, she brought forth;

Before her pain came, she gave birth to a boy.

8. "Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things?

Can a land be born in one day?

Can a nation be brought forth all at once?

As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons.

9. "Shall I bring to the point of birth, and not give delivery?" says the Lord.

"Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?" says your God.

If we are truly born again, then we will be loving and compassionate, for Heaven is with us.

God has made us a promise. Believe it!

For if we believe in the perfect to come, we will not lose hope in trying to better the imperfect, now.

We are to be as a newborn baby in the arms of his or her mother, receiving the milk of Heaven.

10. "Be joyful with Jerusalem and rejoice for her, all you who love her;

Be exceedingly glad with her, all you who mourn over her,

11. That you may nurse and be satisfied with her comforting breasts,

That you may suck and be delighted with her bountiful bosom."

12. For thus says the Lord, "Behold, I extend peace to her like a river,

And the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream;

And you shall be nursed, you shall be carried on the hip and fondled on the knees.

13. "As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you;

And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem."

14. Then you shall see this, and your heart shall be glad,

And your bones shall flourish like the new grass;

And the hand of the Lord shall be made known to His servants,

But He shall be indignant toward His enemies.

Rejoice in the good things we have now, and in the better things, tomorrow.

Do not lose your joy worrying about the evil and hard-of-heart people around us; the Lord will take care of them; but don't rejoice over their downfall, either, but have compassion there, too.

15. For behold, the Lord will come in fire

And His chariots like the whirlwind,

To render His anger with fury,

And His rebuke with flames of fire.

16. For the Lord will execute judgment by fire

And by His sword on all flesh,

And those slain by the Lord will be many.

We are not to follow the hypocrites, either, no matter what others do.

17. "Those who sanctify and purify themselves to go to the gardens,

Following one in the center,

Who eat swine's flesh, detestable things, and mice,

Shall come to an end altogether," declares the Lord.

18. "For I know their works and their thoughts; the time is coming to gather all nations and tongues. And they shall come and see My glory.

19. "And I will set a sign among them and will send survivors from them to the nations: Tarshish, Put, Lud, Meshech, Rosh, Tubal, and Javan, to the distant coastlands that have neither heard My fame nor seen My glory. And they will declare My glory among the nations.

The sign is in our presence now!

20. "Then they shall bring all your brethren from all the nations as a grain offering to the Lord, on horses, in chariots, in litters, on mules, and on camels, to My holy mountain Jerusalem," says the Lord, "just as the sons of Israel bring their grain offering in a clean vessel to the house of the Lord.

The grain offering is an offering of thanksgiving.

There is no longer any "need" for an animal sacrifice for sin; even the animals will praise God, as we sing in the Doxology.

21. "I will also take some of them for priests and for Levites," says the Lord.

22. "For just as the new heavens and the new earth

Which I make will endure before Me," declares the Lord,

"So your offspring and your name will endure.

23. "And it shall be from new moon to new moon

And from sabbath to sabbath,

All mankind will come to bow down before Me," says the Lord.

24. "Then they shall go forth and look

On the corpses of the men

Who have transgressed against Me.

For their worm shall not die,

And their fire shall not be quenched;

And they shall be an abhorrence to all mankind."

What a horrible end for people who have been offered everything, but instead chose the fleeting pleasures of sin and greed, and who retained their hardness of heart.

We can have a better world today and tomorrow, if we work toward it with a loving and compassionate heart and soul.

Amen.

Your Comments are welcome

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