Return to Sermons | Home

“Everlasting Joy!”
Isaiah 35:10


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost—September 2, 2012

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Today’s Old Testament Reading from Isaiah is a beautiful poem, climaxing with this comforting verse: “And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”  This beautiful prophecy of Isaiah has both an initial, literal meaning for the ancient people of God, and a future, symbolic meaning for us today.

Isaiah was sent by the Lord to proclaim a two-part message to the ancient people of God.  First, he preached to them the devastating, bad news that as punishment for turning away from the Lord and worshipping false gods they will be conquered by the Babylonians and taken away from their beloved promised land into captivity.  But, Isaiah also preaches to them the comforting Good News, that after a period of exile in Babylon the Lord will rescue them and bring them back to their promised land.  This prophecy initially came true for the ancient people of God when after some 70 years in exile they were finally allowed to go back home to their promised land.  “And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing.” 

Jesus said, “Repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in [my] name to all nations.”   Just as the Lord in the Old Testament sent Isaiah as a prophet to the ancient people of God, now in the New Testament era Jesus sends out his messengers to proclaim in his name the same two-part message as Isaiah, repentance and forgiveness of sins, the Law and the Gospel.

The bad news of the Law is that because of our sins we all deserve to be condemned to exile, not just for 70 years, but for eternity, in hell.  But, the Good News of the Gospel is that the Lord has rescued you from your sins and will take you home to the eternal promised land of heaven.

“And the ransomed of the Lord will return.”  The Hebrew word used in this verse for “ransom” is also translated “redeem.”  It literally means to “buy back.”  Jesus says, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin . . . but if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  That is why you need a redeemer, to buy you back from slavery to sin and captivity in hell, to set you free for eternal life.  Jesus also tells us the price he paid to ransom you, to redeem you, to buy you back, to set you free: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

So, “the ransomed of the Lord” prophesied by Isaiah includes you.  Because Jesus gave his life as a ransom to redeem you, to pay the penalty for your sins.  Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “You are not your own; you were bought with a price,” and Peter tells us what that price was, “You were redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ.”  As Revelation says, “[He] loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. . .  with your blood you have purchased men for God.”

“And the ransomed of the Lord will return.”  In Hebrew the word for “return” is the same word for “repent.”  That’s because repenting means to turn back from evil and return to the Lord.  As Joel says, “Return to the Lord, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.”

That’s the spiritual meaning of Isaiah’s words, those who are ransomed, redeemed by the Lord, will repent, turn from their sins, and turn back to the Lord.  Isaiah is prophetically describing you and all Christians, redeemed by the Lord, ransomed by the blood of Christ, repenting of your sins, and in faith turning to Jesus and trusting in him as your Savior.  As Peter says in Acts, “Repent, then, and turn to God, that your sins may be wiped out.”

“And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing.”  Zion was the mountain on which the ancient Temple and city of Jerusalem were built.  In the New Testament, Jerusalem and Zion are symbolic for the Christian Church, here on earth and in heaven.  That’s why Christian churches are so often named Zion.

So, Isaiah’s picture of the exiles entering Zion with singing also symbolizes you.  First of all in this life, you are brought by the Lord into the Christian Church, where you worship him and sing his praise.  And finally in the next life, you will be brought by the Lord into the new Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, where you will dwell forever with God and joyfully worship at his throne.  As Revelation says, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. . .  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.’”

“And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

People are often frustrated because the Bible leaves unanswered many questions we have about what heaven will be like.  The Bible instead describes heaven mostly in terms of what it will not be like: “no more death, or mourning, or crying, or pain.”  Paul puts it this way in Romans: “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.”

In 1st Corinthians, Paul explains that what heaven will be like is simply beyond our limited understanding in this life: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”  But, today’s prophesy from Isaiah is one of those places in the Bible where the door to heaven is cracked opened just a little, and we are allowed a peek inside, to see what heaven will be like: “Everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

That is your joyous future!  All the troubles, all the sorrows, all the struggles of this life will be over, and you will have “Everlasting Joy!”  Jesus summed it the joys of heaven in one word, in his promise to the thief on the cross who trusted in him: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Paradise; that is also Jesus’ promise to you, he will take you to be with him in paradise.  Paul puts it this way in Philippians, “I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”

In 2nd Corinthians, Paul explains the effect this joyous future that you look forward to in the next life will have on you now as you live out your life in this world: “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.  For our light and momentary troubles are preparing us for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.  So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. . .  Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  We live by faith, not by sight.  We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

“And the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts