Text: Isaiah 29:17-24
“Just a little while,” and “in just a bit” are phrases that often come out of our mouths. We use them when we have more than one task at hand. We are occupied with one at the moment and we will get to the other in, “just a bit.” Sometimes we say, “just a little while longer,” to comfort ourselves while waiting for some future consolation. When I wrote this sermon, that’s what I was telling myself while awaiting the arrival of my son; “just a little while longer.” Soon my wait to see this gift of God will be over, and I will be comforted by his arrival. That is the sense of our Lord’s Word today. In just a little while, things will be different.
It’s sometimes hard to parse through the poetry of the prophets, and just why the Holy Spirit speaks this way, we don’t know; maybe just because it’s beautiful and cool-sounding. The point this week is that things will soon be different. Although some deny the Second Coming of our Lord and others, sadly, have given up hope, we confess that, in just a little while, the Lord will come. In just a little while, Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field and the field into a forest. That is to say, in just a little while the Lord will put an end to the present order of things even as He is already making all things new in Christ.
Our passage today from the book of Isaiah is set against the temporal destruction and restoration of Jerusalem. St. Isaiah lived and prophesied well ahead of those events, but that didn’t stop the Holy Spirit foretelling it through him, also. That is the immediate context of these words, but they really speak to an event that even we are still awaiting. We are awaiting the arrival of our Lord and the renewal of all things, including His good creation. This is what is foreshadowed in those words, “Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field and the fruitful field a forest? In that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see.” (Isaiah 29:17-18 English Standard Version) We must confess at this juncture that the present way of things is not how it always has been.
The creation, nature, for example, does not exist now as it once did. Already this year, we have experienced much the destructive nature of creation: the coronavirus, the derecho, hurricanes in other parts of our country, and the general lack of rain. The devastating effects of nature now betray the serene and tranquil calm of the Garden. Instead of a pristine beauty – through the Fall – we now experience a wild creation. This wild creation includes a wild, unbelieving population. The Lord denounced in the text, “the ruthless…the scoffer…those who watch to do evil…[who] lay a snare for him who reproves in the gate.” (vv. 20-21) The Lord describes a people who have no qualms about sinning, who scoff at the Lord’s Word and attack those who would encourage them toward repentance. Among these, we were once found (and would still be), had the Lord not brought us out of darkness into His marvellous light through Baptism. In short, what is now is not how it always was; nor is it how it always will be.
“Is it not yet a very little while until Lebanon shall be turned into a fruitful field and the fruitful field a forest?” Here, our Lord promises a glorious renewal of His creation. Its beauty and bounty will be changed in such a glorious way that we will not even recognize what once was. Creation will be restored to reflect fully the beauty of its Creator. Our Lord did once say, “Behold, I am making all things new.” (Rev. 21:5) St. Peter says that with a roar and fire, the Day of the Lord will come and the present order of things will burn up and dissolve. But, he also said, “according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Pt. 3:13)
At our Lord’s return, in a moment, the present creation will be changed, made new; and that includes our bodies. We confess every week in the Creed that, at our Lord’s return, the dead will be raised. When our bodies are raised from their graves, they will be restored and made perfect. The deaf will hear, the blind will see. There will be no disease, no coronavirus. There will be no weakness due to age or injury. There will no longer be any death. Instead, the days of God’s people will be like the days of a tree, it says elsewhere in the prophets. That is, we will live eternally with Christ and our fellow believers in Him. On that day, the ruthless will be no more. Those who scoff at us and hate us for our faith in Christ will be forever separated from us. We shall, “obtain fresh joy in the Lord,” and “exult in the Holy One of Israel.” (v. 19)
In just a little while, these things will happen. The present order of things, of creation and its inhabitants, will be undone. It will all be restored to how it was at creation. However, this restoration has already begun in Christ. In the Gospel, we witnessed a miracle of Jesus to open the ears and tongue of a deaf man. The miracles point to the restoration that is already come through Him. By His life and death, and by His rising again, Jesus has ushered in a new age, the age of grace and forgiveness through faith in Him. Through our Baptism into Him, we received that gift of faith and mercy from our Father. We were restored to a right relationship with Him and call upon Him as dear children do their own fathers. Through Christ’s work for us and by faith in Him, we are no longer children of darkness but of light.
Therefore, we are waiting for the Day of the Lord. In just a little while, He will come. He will make all things new. He will put an end to all sin, to all its destruction, and bring in an eternal joy. No longer will our father Jacob be ashamed, but our forefather will sanctify with all his children – including us – the God of Israel. May the Lord grant us patience in this sad time and hope for the life to come. Amen.