Sermon: No Other Rock (Isaiah 44)
Order of Service: Divine Service 1
#645, “Built on the Rock”
#728, “How Firm a Foundation”
#621, “Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence”
#575, “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Else”
#761, “Rock of Ages”
Location: King of Glory, Blaine, MN
Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are My witnesses! Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any. (Isaiah 44:8)
Throughout history, man has sought something solid and concrete to believe in. The heathen had elaborate statues that they worshipped. Israel had the golden calves1Exodus 32; 1 Kings 19:25-33 and the bronze serpent.2Numbers 21:4-9; 2 Kings 18:4 Man has always wanted a Rock to anchor him in the storms of life. But God says, “Is there a God besides Me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”3Isaiah 44:8
God as our Rock is an intriguing image. The Rock of Gibraltar served as the visible point of no return for travelers on the Mediterranean. Even in the time of Columbus, it served as the limit of the world. Alcatraz Island is known as the Rock because people thought it was impossible to escape. Dwayne Johnson wrestled as the Rock, signifying that he was the most consistent performer on the roster. Man has always looked for a Rock that is limiting, inescapable from notice and consistent. The God of the Bible is the only Rock that fulfills all three qualities.
The heathen gods were no Rock. They were definitely limiting. They were tied to one nation. If their nation was defeated in battle, the god was also defeated. They were visible, but they were not consistent. Their priests taught whatever they wanted. The message changed with the winds of culture.
Culture, as we have seen recently, is definitely another so-called god that is no Rock. It is limiting to what the most prominent fad of the day. When the social winds change, the culture changes as well. Following the George Floyd riots, groups began toppling Confederate statues. Then came the Christopher Columbus statue in St. Paul. The Frederick Douglass statue in Rochester, NY. There is no sense now to what is acceptable to culture except what is right now. Culture is limited to the present. Wants to destroy the past. Tries to mold an amorphous and fluid future. Nothing is consistent with culture. Following after culture, the other false gods of money, fame and power topple. All are limited. All are fleeting. All are constantly changing.
So what about God? What about the One who says, “There is no Rock; I know not any”?4Isaiah 44:8 He truly is limiting, inescapable from notice and consistent with what He says.
Like the heathen gods, God limits Himself. He limits Himself to what He has created. He further limits Himself to those whom He has redeemed. “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts.”5Isaiah 44:6 Isaiah speaks about the “LORD of hosts” often. We will sing about Him in the Sanctus before Communion: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of power and might, Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.”6LSB p. 161; Isaiah 6:3 This LORD is the Redeemer.
How is being the Redeemer a limitation on God? Only those who have faith in Him are redeemed. “Without faith it is impossible to please God.”7Hebrews 11:6 Pleasing God only comes through faith. “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.”8Romans 14:23 How do you get faith? “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.”9Romans 10:17 “The LORD is my portion; I promise to keep Your words.”10Psalm 119:57 As your portion, God gives you a firm foundation in His excellent Word.11LSB #728.1 His Word gives you the comfort that the Lamb of God has taken away the sin of the world.12LSB p. 163; John 1:29 Not only the whole world, but He has taken away your sin. His shed blood redeems you from the power of sin, death and the devil. There is “nothing less” that you may build your hope for salvation and redemption except Jesus’ shed blood and righteousness.13LSB #575.1
This hope, which you cannot see fully now,14Romans 8:25 shines as the Light of the World15Matthew 5:14; John 8:12 to those strugglying in sin’s darkness. This hope makes you a companion of those who fear God.16Psalm 119:63 This hope reveals you as one adopted by God as His son or daughter.17Romans 8:19, 23 This hope seeks for the final revelation of God’s children. It is solidly based in the initial revelation in Baptism. At the font, your foul nature was washed away through His blood.18LSB #761.3 He claimed you as His own. “I know My own, My own know Me. You, not the world, My face shall see.”19LSB #645.5 That moment is what the entire Creation is groaning to see.20Romans 8:19 That is the limit God sets upon Himself.
By His very nature, as the Creator of all things visible and invisible,21Nicene Creed is inescapable. David confesses this:
Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.22Psalm 139:7-10
You cannot escape from God’s presence. Why? He is the First and the Last.23Isaiah 44:6; Revelation 1:17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13 He is the Creator. He is the One who subjected Creation to futility because of man’s sin.24Romans 8:20
But God goes further to show how you cannot escape Him. While we are receiving our Lord’s body and blood, we will sing about Jesus being “King of Kings, yet born of Mary, as of old on earth He stood.”25LSB #621.2 The one inescapable fact about the Redeemer is that He came to earth and took on human flesh. He took on our flesh because He loves us. He loves us so much He chose to live with us.26LSB #645.2 Job looked forward to the Day that he would see his Redeemer in the flesh.27Job 19:25-27 He looked forward to the trumpet sound that will call everyone—living and dead—to account for their faith in the Redeemer.28LSB #575.4 Whether they have it or not. Jesus will judge the living and the dead. No one will escape from Him.
But taking on flesh and judging mankind is only the tip of the iceberg with our Redeemer. He was born of the Virgin Mary, but Mary has a family history. He didn’t just appear with flesh. He received it from His mother. And she didn’t just appear out of thin air either. God set all this in place from the very beginning. He “appointed an ancient people.”29Isaiah 44:7 The book of Genesis points this out. He starts with Adam and Eve. He picks Seth out of all their children. From Seth’s descendants, He chose Noah. Then down to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Judah. Then further down through history He chooses David. Eventually we get to Mary of Nazareth.
Through this inescapable line of descent, Jesus came into human flesh to set Creation free from sin’s bondage.30Romans 8:21 It sits groaning, waiting for the final harvest. Good and bad, wheat and tares, growing together until that final Day.31Matthew 13 That Day when the sons of God will be revealed in glory for all to see.32Romans 8:19 And that revelation is one of the strands that runs consistently through the Bible.
Of all the imagery involved with God being your Rock is His consistency. He never wavers. He doesn’t give with one hand and take with the other. What He says in Genesis still hold true in Revelation and in the year 2020. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”33Hebrews 13:8
Part of His consistency is the continual revelation of His plan of salvation. To the ancient people He appointed, He told these things from the very beginning. Therefore, He says, “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it?”34Isaiah 44:8 He declares His continual and consistent declarations through the Patriarchs, Moses and the Prophets. They were supposed to be able to proclaim what is to come because they had heard it over and over again.35Isaiah 44:7
This is the benefit of the historic liturgy and a standard lectionary. The repetition helps with all stages of life. The young have the firm foundation of God’s Word becoming familiar to them. In the middle years, being built on the Rock helps form all of your decisions. The repetition helps you to become part of the “house of living stones.”36LSB #645.3 In the latter years, having gone through the fiery trials of life,37LSB #728.4 seeing the fullness of God’s steadfast love,38Psalm 119:64 you know that your hope will soon be realized. So you wait in patience the LORD has grown in you.39Romans 8:25 God gives this consistency to you so that you may be anchored on Him.
As we sang to begin our service, “Built on the Rock the Church shall stand even when steeples are falling.”40LSB #645.1 Jesus tells Peter, “On this rock [of Peter’s confession of Christ as the Son of God] I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.”41Matthew 16:18 If you need an example of God’s consistency, you have the last few months. Just because the building’s doors were closed, the Church did not go out of existence. God simply hid His Church in the cleft of the Rock of Ages. The water and blood that flowed from Jesus’ side was still the cure for sin and cleansed us from its guilt and power.42LSB #761.1
God is our Rock. There is no other Rock. Nothing else will hold us steady in this world. We thrive on His limitation of Himself, His inescapability of notice, and His consistency. Without these things, our salvation would be in question. With each of these things, God proves His salvation and redemption again and again. And that is what makes Him such a solid Rock to anchor us in the great storms of this life. Amen.