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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 33:20-24

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, April 11, 2008

20 Look upon Zion, the city of our festivals;
     your eyes will see Jerusalem,
a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved;
     its stakes will never be pulled up,
     nor any of its ropes broken.
21 There the LORD will be our Mighty One.
     It will be like a place of broad rivers and streams.
No galley with oars will ride them,
     no mighty ship will sail them.
22 For the LORD is our judge,
     the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king;
     it is he who will save us.

Can Jerusalem be “the city of our festivals” when the festivals were commanded long before the people lived there (Numbers 29:39)? Or when the people were too far away to celebrate them (Esther [Greek] 16:22)? Or when there was no temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 3:5; Zechariah 8:19)? The answer is: The Spiritual Jerusalem was not a place of bricks and stones. It was—and it is—the place of faith in us.

The prophecy about the lack of ships will continue, but before we look at what it means, we’ll just notice the qualities of God in verse 22: He is the judge of the universe, and he is the one who paid for our sins. He is the lawgiver, and the one who kept the law perfectly in our place. He is the king, and the one who obeyed with an ideal obedience: He obeyed even to the point of death. It is he who saved us.

23 Your rigging hangs loose:
     The mast is not held secure,
     the sail is not spread.
Then an abundance of spoils will be divided
     and even the lame will carry off plunder.
24 No one living in Zion will say, “I am ill”;
     and the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven. (NIV)

What is the problem with the ships? They are not condemned, they are simply not sailing. The picture is of all the means by which wealth was transported, with slack sails and resting oars. And yet the wealth is everywhere! The blessings of God come without man’s help. The blessings of God come because God gives them, not because man makes them come.

And on top of all this, all sickness and disease will be gone. Everything that ravages the body will be gone. The bottom line of the chapter, “the sins of those who dwell there will be forgiven,” is the bottom line of our lives; of our faith. The suffering Servant will be the basis for the kingdom, the power of the kingdom, and the King.

This is the God we worship: The God who has done everything for his people.

For us.

Note: I mentioned the Greek version of Esther in one of the references above. The Esther in our Bibles is the inspired book, but it has sometimes frustrated readers because there are no references to God in any of its chapters. So somewhere along the line, a pious-minded person added some items to the Greek translation, mostly prayers between the chapters, in which some of the events are recapped and God is mentioned plenty. These things are called “The Additions to Esther” and are part of the Apocrypha. The original, Biblical book of Esther reminds us that even when he goes unnamed, God is the one who moves along the events of our lives and blesses us 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.