09 September 2018
Text: Isaiah 52:1-6
Theme: Without Money
1Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength! Put on your garments of splendour, Jerusalem, the holy city. The uncircumcised and defiled will not enter you again.
2Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck, Daughter Zion, now a captive.
3For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing, and without money you will be redeemed.”
4For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them.
5“And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.
6Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.”
How long has it been since you’ve looked at yourself in the mirror? When last were you willing to be honest with yourself about what is really important to you? Because you see, we live in a world that has almost brainwashed us. That has showed us a life in which fame and money and good looks brings happiness. And in the same way, the people of Jerusalem were faced with the reality of not always seeking God when they are weak. Not always calling on him when they face challenges in their lives. It happened more and more that earthly wealth and happiness became a part of their lives. More and more that earthly things took up their time. They chose to rather focus more on these things than on God, He who always had been the focus of the people of Jerusalem.
Isaiah tells them in verse 1 “Awake, awake, Zion, clothe yourself with strength!” He tells the people of Jerusalem this, because they have become “sleeping believers”. They knew, in their minds, who and what they were; that they were God’s chosen people, His holy city as verse 1 says. But they chose to live a life that was more and more in line with what the world had presented to them. In the same way that we are tempted by money, fame and jealousy, by all of these things today, so too the people here in Isaiah 52 were tempted by earthly things and earthly wants. They started to forget who God was in their lives, that He was the reason for their true happiness and that He was the one who provided and still provided in their needs. Who made them holy!
They started to see God in some cases as an extra, and they saw the world and what it presented as what was really important. Are we not guilty of doing exactly the same. Do we not long for more money, more things, more fame, more of what this world requires us to have in order to be happy? Are we not guilty of also knowing in our minds who God is, but still placing Him on the side because it is more convenient that way? We see all these adverts on television, we hear about things on the radio, we go onto facebook and we see adds about different “must have” products. We do online shopping. We constantly face the reality of not having the things that we so want in order to feel any sort of accomplishment or happiness in our lives. And it starts to become an obsession to us. Without us even always realising it, we are drawn into a world where earthly things are more important than what God learns us in His word and through His Spirit and salvation.
And what is ironic is that when we face challenges in this world. Whether it is challenges at home dealing with conflict or problems at university dealing with tradition and trying to correct the past. Whether it is challenges at work where you aren’t payed enough, or challenges in your personal life where you are faced with the reality of wanting to be someone else. Whatever it is that is causing you to sleep, the Lord wants to tell you tonight, through Isaiah 52:1-6, that you must wake up! That you must wake up and start focusing on what is truly important. On what is truly valuable, because we are missing it. For we say we are believers, we say that we are Christians, but there is no evidence to prove it. We are letting our lives be determined by what our world, our country, and our situation (whether it is at home, at university, at school or at work) presents to us and we forget what is really valuable. We forget what God gave to us.
We must stop just knowing, in our minds, what it means to be a Christian and we must start to live according to God’s will. In every situation and in every moment of our lives through the guidance of His Spirit and His word. We must do this so that others may see who God really is through us and know that He is God above the challenges, wants and happiness of this world. The God who gives us something much more valuable than money.
Verse 2 says “Shake off your dust; rise up, sit enthroned, Jerusalem. Free yourself from the chains on your neck.” We must not allow ourselves to become enslaved, like the Israelites, by our own choices and wants, for then we end up as captives and slaves of this world. We must not allow money, want, material gain and fame become like chains around our necks, for this keeps us from knowing more and more about God, and it keeps us from living more and more according to His will for our lives… We can shake the dust of this world off, because of the Holy Spirit living in us, enabling us to choose God instead of the things of this world.
Verse 4 says “For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: “At first my people went down to Egypt to live; lately, Assyria has oppressed them.” The Israelites were slaves in Egypt and they were slaves of Assyria because of their own choices. They followed their own will instead of the will of God. And they were punished for it. But the wonderful thing is that, through all this, God never left them. The first part of verse 3 says “For this is what the Lord says: “You were sold for nothing”. Nothing! The people of God allowed themselves, we allow ourselves, to be sold for nothing because we strive for that which had no value. For earthly riches and happiness. And the shocking thing is that we, in our own lives, find ourselves all too often in this same boat. The same boat as the people of Israel found themselves.
We strive to have more money, material gain and more happiness because without it other people will not like us. Without it we won’t survive. Without it the world says we can never be anything more than worthless. And we try to buy our way out of being viewed as worthless. We try to buy our way out of our problems and out of our mistakes. We allow our happiness to be determined by how much money/wealth we have and in the end our Spirit is suppressed and we find ourselves trapped, as slaves of this world. We find ourselves in such a deep whole, filled with sin and darkness, walls and cages, that no amount of money can save us from- or get us out of it. And then we read the rest of verse 3.
It says “and without money you will be redeemed.” …Without money the people of Egypt, the people enslaved by the Assyrians, the people of Jerusalem and we that are here today are redeemed. For it doesn’t matter in what situation you find yourself. It doesn’t matter who and what this world thinks you are. It doesn’t matter how much money you have or don’t have. The Lord wants to remind us all that he is the One who bring freedom for his children. That He is the hope when all hope is lost and that He is the freedom from sin when all the money in the world is not enough to free us. God came and He gave us something more precious than any amount of money. Something more precious than any material gain or fame. God came and He gave us His one and only son Jesus Christ.
Verse 5 says “And now what do I have here?” declares the Lord. “For my people have been taken away for nothing, and those who rule them mock,” declares the Lord. “And all day long my name is constantly blasphemed.” Despite the fact that God’s people were taken captive and mocked for being followers of Him. Despite their choices to follow their own minds and not His will. Despite His name being blasphemed by many. Despite all of this, God still chose to redeem his people, He still chose to redeem us all. And even more than this, He chose to bring redemption to ALL who choses to accept Him as their Savior.
He came to pay the price, not with money, but with his sweat, tears, blood and body. He came to pay the price without money. He did this so that all may know who He is and to remind us, all of us who have fallen asleep as believers, that He is the one true God. That He is the One who brings us true happiness. That He is the One who provides in all of our needs, and that He is the One who never thought twice about paying the price on the cross on our behalf. God looked at the people of this world and chose to show His love and grace for us so that it may be our reality. So that we may know that a life without money, is a life filled with so much more.
In verse 6 we read “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that day they will know that it is I who foretold it. Yes, it is I.” God wants us to know His name, not just so that we may be aware of the fact that He is God, but so that we may know that He is the One who lives through us. That He is the One who opened the gate to salvation for us so that we can be able to free ourselves, by His Spirit, from the chains of this world. He is the one who is with us always, and therefore our lives are not determined by our earthly wealth and happiness, but by the abundant wealth and life which God brought to us through pain, tears and the death and the resurrection.
We must stop letting the things of this world, our economic situation, our own wealth, our material gain and our fame and all these earthly things influence our relationship with God. He did not hesitate to free us, to pay the price for us so that we can be redeemed, free from the chains of sin and evil. To pay the price that is worth more than any amount of money. He did not hesitate! And in the same way we must not allow our worth to be determined by what the world thinks of us, because to God we are worth more than His own life. We are worth so much because of what He did for us and who He is through us.
May we never forget that God gave us His one and only Son so that we may live as people who are free from the chains of this world. Free from the wants of this world. May we know that the same Spirit who raised Jesus Christ from death, also lives in us by God’s great grace, that He is the One who paid the price much more worth than money. With next weeks’ service, we will be celebrating in the holy communion and we will be remembering what God did for us on the cross. But God wants us not just to know this and be reminded of this when we take part in the holy communion. Isaiah 52 tells us that God wants us to live by it every day of our lives, for through it we are awakened and encouraged to praise God and to thank Him for what He has done and is still doing in our lives. May we know this and may we live a life with God and without money. Amen.