Resurrection Lutheran Church, St Catharines
It Gets Better Guaranteed
Rev. Kurt Lantz Sexagesima Isaiah 55:10-13
February 12, 2023 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“It gets better.” That is the phrase that we often hear and often speak to comfort and console those who are going through a difficult time. When people are grieving the death of a loved one, I have told them it gets better. And I pray that it will. You see, I’m not 100% sure that it will get better for them in the coming months and years. I hope so. That has been my experience, anyway. It tends to be that way as time passes and we find means of support to help us cope and learn to see things in a greater context than just that one life-shattering event. Yet, my saying “It gets better” does not guarantee that it will get better.
Many people respect the opinion of the pastor and others who have extensive clinical experience dealing with those who grieve. Some trust the word of a close friend or relative who has suffered a similar loss and been able to recover. Those can be sources of treasured comfort and encouragement in dark days. But the words of experience from clinicians and friends do not come with any kind of guarantee.
Isaiah, the LORD’s prophet, warned the Israelites that they would be going into exile to Babylon, yet he could say, “It gets better.” This was not his own opinion or even his experienced wisdom. These were not his words at all. They were the words of God, the LORD Almighty. They were the words of the One who said, “’Let there be light’ and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). They were the words of the One who said to Adam, “cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you... By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground” (3:17-18). That has been the daily experience of all of mankind ever since our fall into sin. The words of God come with a guarantee. He speaks and it happens.
So the prophecy of the Israelites going into exile was dire news indeed, a confirmation of the news to Adam and all mankind that this life would mean dying. It is an exile full of toil and suffering and disease and heartache and death. Yet along with the word that the Israelites were going into exile, was also the Lord’s guarantee that they would be coming out.
The Almighty, holy, and faithful LORD gave them His guarantee: “For as the rain and snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My Word be which goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Word of the LORD accomplished His purpose and the Israelites came back from exile as He promised: “For you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace” (v. 12).
In the LORD’s own statement of guarantee He tells us again that His Word gives life. At creation He spoke all things into being, including all living things. “God said, ‘Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.’ And it was so” (Genesis 1:11). His Word truly does make the earth bring forth and sprout, and gives seed to the sower and bread to the eater.
We have a yearly growing cycle that proclaims this gracious providence of God which He performs by His life-giving Word. He spoke at Creation and it happened. And by His abiding Word of blessing things continue to be fruitful and multiply. That Word accomplishes its purpose through rain and snow and sunshine and soil. Yet it continues to be the almighty Word that accomplishes His purpose to bring about life for us who are dying.
The LORD of Creation breathed into man the breath of life (2:7) as a gentle exhalation with words of life and blessing: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (1:28). This word still accomplishes His will even though we have brought a curse from Him upon this world and ourselves with our sins. Despite the death that is the wages of sin (Romans 3:5), causing its heartache and sorrow and suffering all around us, there are still testimonies to His triumphant Word of life which we celebrate with every human birth.
In this life where we experience the heartache of death and the joy of birth, the Word of God offers a dependable guarantee. This Word of His that accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it, promises salvation from sin and death and the gift of eternal life to all who simply believe what He says. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). For those who might shy away from the Word of God, St. Paul proclaimed, “I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation, to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16).
The Word of God comes with His unalterable guarantee. “It shall not return to Me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” He sent it for your salvation from sin and death and grief and despair. His Word tells us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
As His life-giving Word makes its effect through rain and snow, sunshine and soil, to bring forth seed and bread. His life-giving Word also makes its eternal effect through means in order to give us everlasting life. It makes its effect through water in baptism, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). It makes its effect through bread and wine, “This is My body... This is My blood... for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:26-28). These life-giving words of God continue to accomplish the purpose for which He sent them... to save you from this world of sin, sorrow and death and to give you everlasting life, joy, and peace.
His Word brings forth water from heaven and His Word with the water gives new birth unto everlasting life. His Word brings forth bread from the earth and His Word with the bread gives eternal life to body and soul.
He spreads this life-bestowing Word like a reckless farmer scattering seeds everywhere on earth. He “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). He casts His Word even into the most hopeless places with the same guarantee that “whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Everyone is invited to believe and be saved.
Jesus told the parable of the sower (Luke 8:4-15) to demonstrate His reckless love offering salvation through His Word even to people who are in the poorest conditions to benefit from it. In doing so, He clarifies for us both how great is His generous love and also how tragic it is for those who choose to remain in infertile places (where the devil snatches it away, or where the cares of this life are allowed to choke out all hope, or where people are deceived into thinking that wealth can solve their problems).
Yet He does not refrain from scattering His Word to all. He is throwing it out there to you today. In fact the heavenly Father threw His eternal Son into the dirt of this world in order to bring salvation to all. And He did indeed go to those even where the devil was present to try and snatch that Word away. He cast out many evil spirits and healed those who were demon-possessed. He resisted the temptations of the devil Himself through the power of His eternal Word.
Jesus also went to those who were anxious about the cares of this life and He provided for them miraculous catches of fish simply by His Word to cast the net. He fed thousands when His Word blessed food that would have only be enough for a few. Jesus went to those who were deceived by wealth and riches, eating with tax collectors like Matthew and Zacchaeus, and reaching out to the rich who could not find the kingdom of God amidst their earthly treasures.
For the salvation of all, Jesus was thrown into this soiled life in order to fulfill His own Word: “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Jesus became that grain of wheat who was buried in the ground and died. And He did not remain alone. He produces fruit by the hundreds. His death and resurrection bring life and salvation to all who believe. They have it by His Word which accomplishes the purpose for which He was sent.
The guarantee for the Israelites was that they would return with joy and peace. His Word guarantees to you that you will return to the everlasting life of paradise with Him, with joy and peace that will not end. In the resurrection everything that was lost when we fell into sin, is renewed and refreshed for us to have eternally. By His Word, it does get better. It is guaranteed.
And even as we continue for now in this life with sorrow, disease, sin, and death, His Word brings us a peace and joy that makes things better. We have the joy of communion with Him, sharing His life in the very body and blood of Jesus. He continues to sow His Word and to give this bread to the eater. Jesus said, “I AM the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh” (v. 51).
This joyful communion is ours when we believe His Word. His Word has accomplished it and we have joy and peace knowing that it brings about His purpose to save us from sin and death. We have peace knowing that our sins are forgiven through the death and resurrection of Jesus, that seed that came down from heaven to be planted in the grave and brings forth a bodily resurrection to life everlasting for all who believe His Word. This is the guarantee that we have that it gets better, that is better. The paradise of Eden is restored, and the whole of creation rejoices in that. The thorns and thistles will be gone and we will eat the fruit of the tree of life.