“Listen to me, O house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb; even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” Isaiah 46:3-4; Sanctity of Life Sunday; 1/20/19, with credit also to Rev. Michael Salemink, Executive Director, Lutherans for Life.
Children are a great blessing from the Lord. They bring great joy and a lot of laughter. Sometimes spending time with them changes the way we look at life. But, anyone who has ever taken care of a child before, knows that there are times that children throw tantrums. Some of those tantrums may be legitimate, like when they are hungry, uncomfortable, sick, or afraid. But, there are times when these tantrums are “flat out ridiculous”. For example, if you were to “Google” “reasons why my child is crying.” You would get some interesting pictures of tearful tots, with profound captions. Toddlers bawling because, “Someone ate all the muffins” (but it was really him.) Another crying because his mother “wouldn’t allow him to eat Styrofoam.” Another bawling because “There was a hotdog hidden in his cornbread.” Another, “who doesn’t want to go” (even though she was repeatedly told that we weren’t going anywhere.) One who threw a tantrum because the “slide was too slow.” Another because “he couldn’t get the last Cheerio on the spoon.” And the last because his mother wouldn’t allow him to “push his fingers into her throat until it made the noise he likes when she gags and can’t breathe .” It’s really something to hear why these kids are crying.
Throughout the book of Isaiah, God pictures Israel as His beloved child. He says, “Listen to me, o house of Jacob, all the remnant of the house of Israel, who have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb.” (Is. 46:3) Even from the very beginning of the book of Isaiah, in chapter one, God says, “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me” (Is. 1:2) Why was Israel rebelling? Why were they crying? In truth, they fattened themselves until they grew too large to harvest the food that got them large. They pampered themselves until they became too lazy to make the furniture that left them lazy. They had so much prosperity.
And they began throwing tantrums. They trampled upon their laws and morals until they left those laws powerless to protect them. They swallowed the poisons they took in their mouths to spit poison at each other. The leaders who got them rich by cheating them cheated them out of even their rightful share. The officials they bribed to favor them betrayed them because of a bigger bribe.
And so the Israelites sulked. Why? They took such advantage of one another that they left none to defend them against strangers. The treasures they raided from their neighbors attracted raiders from other neighborhoods. The bullies to whom they handed over lunch money went ahead and helped themselves to dinner and breakfast.
Then the Israelites became hysterical. They cast golden idols too stiff to stand up for themselves. They carved wooden gods too heavy to help. They didn’t listen any more to the divine commands from the true God, and instead wearied themselves with the ways of the world. As a result, they no longer heard the beautiful promises of God. Rather than being a joyful child in his beloved father’s arms, they became the child throwing a wild and ridiculous tantrum.
Now, you might say, “Silly Israel! Why didn’t you just grow up!” At least we don’t bow down to graven images. Okay, maybe we worship pleasure. Maybe we serve prosperity. Maybe we revolve around property, submit ourselves to popularity, and surrender ourselves to pleasure. But at least we haven’t forgotten the words of the Almighty God.
Okay, maybe we dismiss the doctrines our national atmosphere finds offensive, but at least we aren’t losing the lines of what is right and wrong. Okay, maybe we concern ourselves instead with what is convenient, comfortable, practical, and profitable, but at least we don’t abandon widows and fatherless neighbors.
Thankfully we don’t act like Israel! Good thing we don’t behave like those sinners. Right??? Unfortunately it’s wrong!!! We’re just like them! We throw our tantrums too. Maybe even worse. Our people fear public opposition more than God’s disapproval. Our leaders revere the almighty dollar more than what God’s Word has to say. Our culture blesses death as some kind of salvation from suffering. Our country gratifies the sinful flesh’s appetites like a sacrament. Our communities abort our brothers and sisters in the name of progress. Our world euthanizes our sisters and brothers for the sake of uniformity. Our consciences often permit it. Our minds justify and rationalize it. Our mouths lie silent, and our hands stand idly by. We need help! We desperately need help!
Well, dear people, brothers and sisters in Christ, we have that help, and we have the great cure from One who became a baby for us. Isaiah speaks of the Jesus who was conceived for us. He wrote, “The virgin shall conceive and give birth, and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (which means God-with-us). “A child is born for us. A son is given to us!.” Infant Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes and was laid in a manger. Chubby-cheeked Lord Jesus toddled around. Skinny legged Jesus had a childhood. Jesus also had a time He was an adolescent, a teenager. Isaiah reminds us that He was delicate and determined in adulthood—“like a lamb that is led to the slaughter.” Christ Jesus—humble in the Garden, vulnerable under the law. Christ Jesus—broken on the cross and incapacitated by crucifixion. God chose Him to become weakened, defenseless, deadened, and dependent like us. Behold, He is one of us!
The Almighty made Himself tiny so that He might draw near to each of us. The Most High made Himself mild so that He might dwell with all of us. He shares in our ailments and our pains. He suffers with us in our discontent and hysterics. He saves us from our own deficits and failures. This Father will have us despite our sulking and tantrumming. The Savior assumes our difficulties and accepts our differences. The Lord takes on our immaturities and takes away our sins. During our disrupting and demanding, He still welcomes us and wants you. Through our emergencies or our excesses, He respects us and protects us. He calls us precious! He embraces all of us, even those of us who participate in abortions. God forgives that. God forgives you and this proclaims the littlest among us special. He loves us with an amazing grace-filled love. And this grace pronounces babies and old aged, impaired and unable, humankind beginning to end precious and priceless.
You are God’s children! God’s babies. We’re all His little ones. Age to age, we’re still the same. God says, You “have been borne by me from before your birth, carried from the womb, even to your old age I am he and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made and I will bear; I will carry and will save.” You are precious to Him. Because He lives and reigns, every human being has this identity, this purpose, belonging to and beloved by Him who has neither rival nor equal, as it was in the beginning, is now and will be forever. From age to age He’s still the same! Take it! Trust it! You are righteous in Christ. Receive it. Believe it. Life is never a sentence. Life is always a story. It’s a story of God’s unconditional love for us at all stages of life from conception to old age. From age to age, God’s love is still the same.
You can speak this truth. You get to show this love. You share this Gospel, and Jesus Himself shines through your courage and compassion. Like the shepherds who saw the Christ child in the manger, and told everyone, we can share the message of forgiveness and hope to a world that so desperately needs to hear it. Human life is precious, at all stages. From conception to old age. God sees us as His precious children from age to age, He’s still the same.
God grant it…