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Voices

December 9, 2023 Pastor: Rev. Peter Mills

HIGH MTADVENT 2/B (12/10/23), Ps. 85; Isaiah 40:1-11; 2 Peter 3:8-14; Mark 1:1-8

VOICES

Get yourself up on a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good tidings; lift up your voice with strength … Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” (v. 9)

Out of heaven’s council three “voices” are directed to speak a word of double “comfort” upon the heart of Jerusalem (Isa. 40:1, 2). Isaiah is first to hear this council, a prophesy of God’s grace through his “Ruling Arm” (v. 10), who is the pre-incarnate Christ.

God’s second herald, JB speaking from the literal and figurative wilderness (v.3), to prepare man for heaven’s comfort. The third voice, is new Zion, in the knowledge of her Lord (Jn. 17:3) lending her voice beyond the cities of Judah; directing the nations, to God’s Lamb for their sin; their Warrior-King, Shepherd, and Ruling Arm, proclaiming, “Behold your God!”

Israel was God’s servant charged to bring the knowledge of His salvation to the nations. Instead, through evil kings and idolatrous hearts, Israel disobeyed, keeping the good news to themselves.

For insubordination and unbelief God consigned the northern tribes to an Assyrian oblivion; and Judah to the belly of the Babylonian beast for seventy years. Yet Isaiah’s “voice” promised Israel double “comfort” and by implication a new exodus and return to God.

If Israel was faithless, God nevertheless is faithful of his promises and strong to save. God would send a “Savior”, one greater than Moses. But first he would employ Cyrus, a Persian deliverer out of Israel’s captivity.

JB was God’s second “voice” of “comfort”. Jesus was directed to John, the son of Zechariah, a high priest, for anointing Jesus to be God’s new Servant. Where old Israel had failed its charge; Jesus would be Zion’s new Israel and High Priest.

For warfare against God, man was judged worthy of death, so also the earth over which he had dominion. Heaven’s rebellion conjoined with man’s sin too would suffer loss. But death and curse resolve nothing for man who had yet to be confirmed in the tree of Life. By God’s wisdom and word of dual “comfort”, man’s warfare with God in Christ is ended. Mankind awaits the promises dénouement of a new heaven and earth on the Last Day.

That Jesus has become God’s new Israel gives us pause to “behold [our] God”; to grasp Jesus born Son of God and Son of man, Ruling Arm of God; who in innocence and humility to the Father’s will has come to us as Suffering Servant (Isa. 53) for atonement of sin; manifesting divine power hidden under weakness (2 Cor. 12:9), approachable alone by faith.

From the wilderness that is our world of sin, God’s second voice, JB, his prophet of Advent, called for a “baptism of repentance”, to prepare hearts for the coming of the Lamb, who would employ a “Baptism in the Spirit”.

Self-generated repentance is impossible for sinful men; repentant faith is wholly gift from the preached Word. John’s preaching associated his baptism with heart-felt turning from sin’s thralldom and trust in God’s promise of forgiveness (Zech. 12:10-13:1), saying, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29, 36).

Again, Jesus was born to suffer and die as God’s Servant for man’s sin and unbelief. By his Passion and Resurrection, his people receive grace’s double “comfort”. On his Baptism in sin-laden water, Jesus received the HS, imputing to himself all our sin, destining him for death.

In exchange, those Baptized into Christ’s death receive another “comfort”, his righteousness before God for which we respond by more gift: true repentance, “And the crooked ground will become level, and the rough places a plain” (Isa. 40:4b).

Nor is faith generated of ourselves; rather it is also gift: that of Christ’s own faith, absolute trust in the Father’s word, will, and integrity. As Abram was accounted righteous by faith (Gen. 15:6); so, we baptized into Christ are imputed, not only with Jesus’ faith but Christ’s own righteousness and holiness for participation in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).

God called three voices, Isaiah, JB, and new Zion, for the world’s sight to fidelity which God desires, true worship. By the HS’s we discern our double “comfort”: Christ’s Righteousness, and Truth received in Zion’s sacraments and proclamation (Isa. 40:8b).

The third “voice” is that from Zion’s preaching, in these last days: heaven’s double “comfort”, “Get you up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength … Say to the cities … ‘Behold your God!’”

What “comfort” shall Zion give, but the Baptist’s exhortation, “prepare the way of the Lord” (Mk. 1:2). St. Peter explains, the Lord is patient not wishing any should perish. God desires that all come to repentance before the unknown and sudden Great Day (2 Peter 3:8-14;) when repentance will be too late (Mt. 25:11).

For those anticipating “the Day”, Jesus’ final coming seems delayed; yet as men count time that Day is backed by the surity of God’s word. On that Day the heavens and the elements of the earth and heaven will be undone, purified by fire for the coming of the new creation begun at Jesus’ nativity, passion, resurrection, and gifting new Zion the HS.

From Zion the Baptized live in God’s double “comfort” promises: Christ present in word and Sacrament; possessing the Spirit for knowing the Father’s heart in his crucified Servant-Son. In knowledge, we are now God’s “voice” in the world, explicating his word in strength, Lord’s Day to Lord’s Day, proclaiming, “Behold your God!”

Isaiah’s “voice”, JB’s “voice”, and today our “voice” in word and deed reveal the Christmas Babe, to be Word of God, mighty Arm of Him who Rules (cf. Isa. 7:14; 9:6, 7), the One who brings with him both reward and recompense; tenderly shepherding his lambs that none who trust his word need fear (Isa. 40:9c-11) the hot breath of purifying re-creation. Amen.

pem.