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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 24:1-3

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Lord’s Devastation of the Earth

The man and his sons busied themselves with their work, high on a scaffold. Board after board, plank after plank was nailed in place, all according to plan. The nails were driven into the wood, and if a splinter was to be had, or a drop of blood fell to the ground, it was to be expected. More wood. More nails. Another sunset; more work tomorrow. The man and his sons kept up the work while the world rolled past and laughed at them.

Then, after barks and growls and hoots and chirps and other odd noises were sealed in behind a huge door, the rain began to fall. The rain went on for a week, and then another. Splinters and blood and years of work were forgotten, and yet another week of rain went by; the most violent and tremendous downpour the world had ever seen. The man and his sons and their wives were sealed up inside the vast box they had made—oblong and rudderless, it could hardly be called a ship even though it was vastly larger than any ship afloat—and the waters rose and lifted the barge while destruction poured past. Whole continents disappeared beneath the waves, and as insignificant a thing as the tide itself covered even the highest peaks of Asia.

The man and his sons and their wives were safe, but agony was happening outside their hull. “The flood came and took them all away” (Matthew 24:37). It was the same for priest and people, for master and servant, for mistress and maid, for seller and buyer, for borrower and lender, for debtor and creditor. All were drowned. All were destroyed. “He did not spare the ancient world when he brought the flood on its ungodly people” (2 Peter 2:5).

When the flood gave way again and dry ground appeared, more than a year had gone by. No one was left except the man and his sons and their wives. God promised them not to destroy the earth this way ever again—not with water. His rainbow in the sky would remind them of his holy promise.

But not that many years went by, and the same ungodly, unholy wickedness that had brought God’s rage down upon the world once was back at full strength. Not like a sassy child. Not like a profane convict. Not like a furious “woman scorned.” Not like anything that could have been imagined: The world ran away from its creator and savior and thought: “We could do a better job,” and in their hearts they tried to put God himself to death.

What waits for them from God now?

24 See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth
     and devastate it;
he will ruin its face
     and scatter its inhabitants—
2 it will be the same
     for priest as for people,
     for master as for servant,
     for mistress as for maid,
     for seller as for buyer,
     for borrower as for lender,
     for debtor as for creditor.
3 The earth will be completely laid waste
     and totally plundered.
         The LORD has spoken this word. (NIV)

There is time, O Earth, to repent. There is time, O land, to confess. But Abram does not stand outside our walls bartering with God for fifty, forty, thirty, ten faithful to be found inside. Each of us must—must—turn from our sins and ask God to forgive us.

What God offers us is the inextinguishable flame of eternal life. The promise of the resurrection is not a fairy tale. It’s God telling us that he will give us what he always meant for us: Life with him forever in heaven. His forgiveness washes over us and under us and through us and drowns—completely destroys—the sin in us, so that like the world after the flood we are renewed and lifted up in Christ. In this way, the water of the flood is like “baptism that now saves you…by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). God has given us the sign of the cross itself to remind us of our Savior and his work, and we look to Jesus for forgiveness every day. “We do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). It is the gospel that renews us. It is God who saves us. It is Jesus we look to, today and always.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.