From Forsaken to Forgiven
*An atheist scientist came to God and said, "We've figured out how to make humans without you."
God said, "OK, let me see you do it."
So the atheist bent down to the ground and scooped up a handful of earth. But God stopped him and said, "Oh, no you don't. Get your own dirt!"
*A mother went to wake her son for church one Sunday morning. When she knocked on his door, he said, "I'm not going!"
"Why not?" asked his mother.
"I'll give you two good reasons," he said. "One, they don't like me. Two, I don't like them."
His mother replied, "I'll give you two good reasons why YOU WILL go to church. One, you're 47 years old. Two, you're the pastor!"
Good news is like a good joke, you just have to share it.
The first verse of our scripture from Isaiah reminds me of a person who won the lottery! He was so excited that he grabbed the phone, dialed the operator, and said, “just get me anyone!”
Isaiah couldn’t contain himself… He was beside himself with excitement! The good news has to be shared. The first 40 chapters of Isaiah are a scathing denouncement of what’s wrong with God‘s people. Not what’s wrong with the world necessarily! But what’s wrong with God’s people. Isaiah sees every crisis, be it political, or otherwise… as God‘s judgment against God‘s people because of their disobedience and lack of faith.
But in chapter 40, Isaiah’s tone changes. Isaiah‘s message changes. He starts to see hope… He begins to preach both hope, and comfort to the people. Israel’s still divided, there’s still trouble in the land… but Isaiah sees hope.
And because of that hope, that Good News, Isaiah can’t be quiet! He says in Chapter 62, “for Zion’s sake I will not keep silent.” Isaiah was so excited about the promises of God… He was so fired up and emotional… That he couldn’t keep it to himself. He knew that when God makes a promise, God keeps it! In our scripture lessons, Isaiah, the Israelites and all of us… are given a pretty powerful, life changing promise from God.
Isaiah tells the people, “you shall be called by a new name... a name that the Lord will give you.” And Isaiah goes on to say, “you shall no longer be termed… or called… Forsaken (or deserted).”
In our scripture from Revelation… The faithful and obedient church of Philadelphia, is told God‘s going to write a new name on the hearts of the faithful. A new name that symbolizes new life, a new attitude, and a new condition - a new position!
You know, the fact is… names tell us a lot… they are filled with information. Boss, president, mother, father, pastor, friend… All such names call to mind certain images. If we name or label or classify someone as “slow” or “dumb” or “ugly” or “talented” or “smart” or “beautiful”… those names, those labels, tend to stick. They become part of who and what that person is in their own eyes… be it good or bad.
Well, the fact is, God‘s people had been named, or labeled “Forsaken.”
Forsaken is a horrible name! Have you ever felt forsaken? Forsaken is the loneliest feeling in the world. It’s worse than alienation. It’s worse than just being alone or being lonely. It implies complete and utter abandonment. It’s being intentionally cut off from any sense of care or compassion.
Again, in Isaiah’s day, the nation of Israel was divided… It was literally split into two nations. And there were conflicts both from within and from with-out. The people of Israel, God‘s chosen people, felt that God had deserted His own. That God had abandoned them… that God had forsaken them. And Isaiah comes right out and says that the fact of the matter is God HAD forsaken Israel… because of their sin… and their lack of faith.
A teacher took her class on a field trip to the museum of natural history. They looked at fossils and bones and the remains of animals and other such things in nature. And that night at dinner the father asked his daughter, “where did you go today?” And as quick as a flash the little girl answered, “we went to a dead circus!“
Isaiah says that’s pretty much how God felt about his people. Their worship was dead and lifeless. It had no meaning… No feeling… No purpose. They were just going through the motions in an attempt to placate God. Their worship was useless because it didn’t make a difference in their lives or in the lives of others. And their sin, their lack of faith, caused God to pull back… Not from pagans, not from apostates, not from all of those outside the family of God… but from his own people. The message of the first 40 chapters of Isaiah is bleak, it’s depressing at best…
But then everything changes. From desolation and abandonment… to hope and comfort! From forsaken to forgiven. It’s good news! The Israelites were no longer called forsaken. They’d repented… So God gave them a new name. God offers that same new name, that same new identity… To you and to me.
I knew a man several years ago his name is Bobby. He’s dead and gone now. He was middle-age when he started coming to church and became a Christian. He had lived a rather rebellious life. He did some pretty bad things along way. Things that could’ve landed him in prison. But, fortunately he never went to prison, he did spend some time in the county jail. But he never went to prison.
Thankfully, God managed to get Bobby’s attention before it was too late. Bobby had a terrible car accident destroyed his car… The police even said that they didn’t know how Bobby survived. But he did, with just minor cuts and bruises. But after that wreck Bobby began to live differently. He put the sins of the past, the regrets of yesterday, behind him, he started to live his life for Christ.
After he made a profession of faith, was baptized, and joined the church, like most all of us have done at some point. He was standing at the door, being greeted after the service by well-wishers, when the lady who’d been a member of the church for a long time came up to Bobby and said, “what’s your name again?” And without missing a beat Bobby said, “forgiven ma’am… My name is forgiven.”
That my friends is the promise of God! That’s the promise that he made Israel and it is the same promise that he makes to you and to me. No longer with you and I be called forsaken. No longer will we be called deserted. Instead, through Christ, like Bobby, like Israel, like the church at Philadelphia… We are given a new name. We are called forgiven.
And now that we’re no longer forsaken… now that we’re forgiven… We should be shouting that good news to the world for all to hear. In fact that news, that awareness, that God has given us a brand new identity a brand new purpose… A new and living hope… Should affect every single area of our lives.
Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “if a man is called me a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep the street so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause and say, ‘here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’”
It seems to me, that out of response to God‘s grace that changes everything… including our identity… From forsaken to forgiven… We should try our best to be, and to do, what God wants us to be and do. Sometimes it’s hard… I know, I live it every day. But the good news is, God has in fact forgiven us… And we will never be forsaken again.
Always remember, that the good news is like a good story, or a joke that is too good to keep to yourself. Through our lives and our words… Let’s resolve to let everyone know that because of God‘s grace, our names have been changed from forsaken to forgiven. Don’t forget… Don’t ever forget that God delights in you. And now that you and I have received his grace… We are called to live that delight, to live that grace, for others to see.