Thursday after Rorate coeli, The Fourth Sunday in Advent
Scripture: Isaiah 40-42 (NKJV)
40:1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” says your God.
2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.”
3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4 “Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight and the rough places smooth;
5 “The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
6 The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 “The grass withers, the flower fades, because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass.
8 “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.”
9 O Zion, You who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him.
11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as His counselor has taught Him?
14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing.
16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering.
17 All nations before Him are as nothing, and they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.
18 To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?
19 The workman molds an image, the goldsmith overspreads it with gold, and the silversmith casts silver chains.
20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman to prepare a carved image that will not totter.
21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23 He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.
24 Scarcely shall they be planted, scarcely shall they be sown, scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, when He will also blow on them, and they will wither, and the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.
25 “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high, and see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might and the strength of His power; Not one is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my just claim is passed over by my God “?
28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength.
30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall,
31 But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
41:1 “Keep silence before Me, O coastlands, and let the people renew their strength! Let them come near, then let them speak; Let us come near together for judgment.
2 “Who raised up one from the east? Who in righteousness called him to His feet? Who gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? Who gave them as the dust to his sword, as driven stubble to his bow?
3 “Who pursued them, and passed safely by the way that he had not gone with his feet?
4 “Who has performed and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? ‘I, the LORD, am the first; And with the last I am He.'”
5 The coastlands saw it and feared, the ends of the earth were afraid; They drew near and came.
6 Everyone helped his neighbor, and said to his brother, “Be of good courage!”
7 So the craftsman encouraged the goldsmith; He who smooths with the hammer inspired him who strikes the anvil, saying, “It is ready for the soldering”; Then he fastened it with pegs, that it might not totter.
8 “But you, Israel, are My servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham My friend.
9 “You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest regions, and said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and have not cast you away:
10 ‘Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
11 “Behold, all those who were incensed against you shall be ashamed and disgraced; They shall be as nothing, and those who strive with you shall perish.
12 “You shall seek them and not find them—those who contended with you. Those who war against you shall be as nothing, as a nonexistent thing.
13 “For I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’
14 “Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I will help you,” says the LORD and your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth; You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small, and make the hills like chaff.
16 “You shall winnow them, the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them; You shall rejoice in the LORD, and glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17 “The poor and needy seek water, but there is none, their tongues fail for thirst. I, the LORD, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
18 “I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
19 “I will plant in the wilderness the cedar and the acacia tree, the myrtle and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the cypress tree and the pine and the box tree together,
20 “That they may see and know, and consider and understand together, that the hand of the LORD has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.
21 “Present your case,” says the LORD. “Bring forth your strong reasons,” says the King of Jacob.
22 “Let them bring forth and show us what will happen; Let them show the former things, what they were, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; Or declare to us things to come.
23 “Show the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that you are gods; Yes, do good or do evil, that we may be dismayed and see it together.
24 “Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; He who chooses you is an abomination.
25 “I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come; From the rising of the sun he shall call on My name; And he shall come against princes as though mortar, as the potter treads clay.
26 “Who has declared from the beginning, that we may know? And former times, that we may say, ‘He is righteous ‘? Surely there is no one who shows, surely there is no one who declares, surely there is no one who hears your words.
27 “The first time I said to Zion, ‘Look, there they are!’ And I will give to Jerusalem one who brings good tidings.
28 “For I looked, and there was no man; I looked among them, but there was no counselor, who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
29 “Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion.
42:1 “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
2 “He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street.
3 A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth.
4 “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.”
5 Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it:
6 “I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles,
7 “to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house.
8 “I am the LORD, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.
9 “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”
10 Sing to the LORD a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you coastlands and you inhabitants of them!
11 Let the wilderness and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
12 Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare His praise in the coastlands.
13 The LORD shall go forth like a mighty man; He shall stir up His zeal like a man of war. He shall cry out, yes, shout aloud; He shall prevail against His enemies.
14 “I have held My peace a long time, I have been still and restrained Myself. Now I will cry like a woman in labor, I will pant and gasp at once.
15 “I will lay waste the mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation; I will make the rivers coastlands, and I will dry up the pools.
16 “I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.
17 “They shall be turned back, they shall be greatly ashamed, who trust in carved images, who say to the molded images, ‘You are our gods.’
18 “Hear, you deaf; And look, you blind, that you may see.
19 “Who is blind but My servant, or deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is blind as he who is perfect, and blind as the LORD’S servant?
20 “Seeing many things, but you do not observe; Opening the ears, but he does not hear.”
21 The LORD is well pleased for His righteousness’ sake; He will exalt the law and make it honorable.
22 But this is a people robbed and plundered; All of them are snared in holes, and they are hidden in prison houses; They are for prey, and no one delivers; For plunder, and no one says, “Restore!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this? Who will listen and hear for the time to come?
24 Who gave Jacob for plunder, and Israel to the robbers? Was it not the LORD, He against whom we have sinned? For they would not walk in His ways, nor were they obedient to His law.
25 Therefore He has poured on him the fury of His anger and the strength of battle; It has set him on fire all around, yet he did not know; And it burned him, yet he did not take it to heart.
Failure and disappointment are part of the human experience. Both are brought about by sin, so they affect all men. The wicked face failure and disappointment because the Lord is set against their selfish counsels. “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless” (40:23). The Creator blows on them and they, along with all their schemes, whither (40:24). The saints also face failure and disappointment in life at the hands of other men, as well as from the devil, the world, and their own sinful nature.
It is into this sinful world full of failure and disappointment that God’s Servant enters. “He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth” (42:4). This Servant is our Lord Jesus Christ. He comes in the flesh to atone for the sin of the world and He does not fail in this. He comes to break sin’s oppression in the lives of all who believe the gospel. He comes to mankind to grant rest to those whose souls are restless, that is, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness but do not find it in the things of this world. He provides strength through the gospel so that the saints are able to run and walk without wearying and fainting (40:31). Because He does not fail, neither does His Word and Sacraments. Through these means He continues to open the eyes of those blinded by their sins. Through these means He still releases those imprisoned by their guilt and opens to them everlasting life.
Heavenly Father, we give You thanks for sending Your Only-Begotten Son into the flesh and that His work for us does not fail. Amen.