Books of the Bible
- Old Testament
Isaiah - Vision for
Peace: No Short Cuts
Advent 2, Old Testament Sermon
(This sermon can
be easily adapted from its setting for Advent 2 into another setting
that focuses on personalities of the Old Testament.)
Wouldn’t it be
nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there wasn’t so much killing going
on right now in Lebanon? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be
nice if the blacks and whites in South Africa miraculously started
to live together in peace? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be
nice if there were no death squads in El Salvador and people
weren’t shooting each other?
Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were
peace on earth?
Or, if you can’t
have peace between nations, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace
within our families? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice
to have a whole week together as husband and wife and not have a
fight? Wouldn’t that be nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if your
children did not fight with each other? Wouldn’t it be nice to go
on a family vacation and not have any blow-ups? Wouldn’t that be
nice? Wouldn’t it be nice if tempers didn’t flare so quickly,
like a match that suddenly ignites? If you can’t have peace in El
Salvador, maybe we could have peace at home and in our families.
That would be nice.
Or, if that isn’t
possible, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace within myself?
Wouldn’t it be nice if I weren’t so harsh with myself?
Wouldn’t it be nice if I didn’t explode at myself in anger?
Wouldn’t it be nice if my guts were calm? Wouldn’t it be nice if
I could sit around all night and not have a compulsion to eat ice
cream or drink wine or beer in order to calm my nervous stomach?
Wouldn’t that be nice? If I can’t have peace between nations or
peace within the family, maybe I could at least have some peace
Or, if I couldn’t
have these, wouldn’t it be nice to have peace at least a few days
before or after Christmas? We all know what time of year this is,
Christmas time. During Christmas, we are often short of money, short
of time, and short of temper. In preparation for the Prince of
Peace, wouldn’t it be nice to have a little bit of Christmas peace
at your house or mine?
Down deep inside,
don’t all of us long to have a greater sense of peace? Down deep
inside of every human being, there is a longing, a deep God-given
longing that there would be a greater sense of peace within
ourselves, within our families, within our nation, and between
Isaiah felt the
same way. Isaiah was a prophet in the Old Testament and he felt the
same way. He had the same longings. He, too, had this longing for
peace like a man in the desert longs for water, like a starving man
longs for bread. That
is the way that Isaiah longed for peace.
The year was 700
B.C. The Jews had been fighting for forty years. First they fought
with the Assyrians, then the Egyptians, then the Assyrians, then the
Egyptians. All the kids had grown up with a weapon, with a spear in
one hand and a sword in the other hand. From a time a kid was three
years old, all they were doing was playing war games. … Can you
imagine living in El Salvador or Palestine or Lebanon today? From
the time you were born until the time you were twenty, all you do is
to be taught to kill or be killed.
All your life you have been taught to shoot and kill. That is
all you have known. Can you imagine forty years of that kind of
life? Can you imagine what it feels like to have spent your whole
life being trained to kill or be killed.
… That’s the way it was for Isaiah. Isaiah was tired of
it. He was tired of four decades of killing. He was tired of kids
being trained to kill. He was tired of mothers and fathers and sons
and daughters fighting with each other. He was just plain tired of
people fighting. Isaiah longed for peace; he longed for peace as
much as a parched dry thirsty man longs for water or a starving man
longs for bread. Isaiah longed for peace because he had experienced
so much war.
Isaiah was not only
tired of war and longed for peace. He had read the book of Genesis
and knew that all human beings were made for peace. He knew that God
created us to be peaceful with each other. Isaiah knew that we were
made in the image of God, and therefore we are made to be peaceful
with each other. When God created Adam and Eve and humankind, it was
not God’s intention for us to hurt each other. It was not God’s
intention for human beings to fight with each other. It was not
God’s intentions for mothers and fathers, and husbands and wives,
and blacks and whites, and Arabs and Israelis, and Russians and
Americans, to be at war with each other. That is not the way that
God made us. We are made in the image of God. We are like God. We
are made for peace. Therefore,
down in your guts, every time you fight with your husband or wife or
children or self, you don’t like it. You don’t like it. Why do
you not like it? Why is it that you don’t like to fight? Because
you have been conditioned this way? No. Why? Because you have been
made in the image of God. You and I have been made by God to be
peaceful people. We always feel so much better about life when we
are at peace with ourselves, family, and each other.
The prophet Isaiah
longed for peace. Isaiah had a dream just as Martin Luther King, Jr.
had a dream. Isaiah
dreamed dreams of peace, and he wrote down these beautiful,
beautiful dreams, some of the most memorable words in the whole
Bible. “The lamb and the leopard shall lie down together. The
suckling child, one who sucks at his mother’s breast, shall play
with wasps and not be stung and the weaned child, three or four
years old, shall put his hand into a den of cobras and shall not be
bitten by the snakes.” Isaiah was a dreamer of peace. He had
dreams and visions of peace.
Why is there always those dreamers who dream of peace? Why?
Why is it that in every society there are people who dream of peace,
who dream of a world in which people are not shooting or hurting one
another? Why is it that there are dreamers of peace so that a
husband and wife can live with each other and not fight? Why is it
that there are always dreamers of peace in which children actually
love and like each other and not fight? Why is it that there are
always dreamers of peace between the nations? … Don’t’ you
get tired of fighting? The prophet Isaiah was tired of forty years
of fighting, tired of four decades of fighting, and therefore he
dreamed dreams of peace.
Isaiah knew how to
get peace. He knew how to create it. Isaiah knew the recipe, the
secret code, the hidden formula that unlocked the peace of God so
that people could live at peace with each other. So Isaiah gave them
the recipe, but they didn’t have eyes that could see or ears that
could hear or minds that could understand, so for 700 years the
people continued to fight with each other until the Prince of Peace
came. Jesus, the Prince of Peace, came to earth and actually walked
in the paths of peace. Jesus
was a peacemaker. So today, we can either hear the words of Isaiah
or listen to the words of Jesus and learn how to walk in the paths
The purpose of the
sermon today is state clearly the recipe for peace, the hidden
formula for peace. We joke at our house; that is, my wife has a
recipe for salmon sauce and she shares it with no one. If you have
ever asked my wife for the recipe for her salmon sauce, you have
discovered that she gives it to no one. At all the church potlucks,
she wants to bring something that no other woman will bring and that
is her salmon sauce. She knows the secret recipe, and the sauce is
great. Everyone says so. …
I would like to share with you the secret recipe for peace.
The first part of
this secret recipe is this: a person needs to be filled with the
Spirit of the Prince of Peace. This means to have the very Spirit of
God come into you, alive, full, and vibrant. The prophet Isaiah said
that during the Messianic Age, there would be an outpouring of the
Holy Spirit and the Spirit of God would rest upon the Messiah.
Isaiah says that Messiah would be given a spirit of wisdom and
understanding, a spirit of insight and inner strength, a spirit of
wisdom and the fear of the Lord. The very Spirit and compassion of
God will live inside of us, and this is the most important
ingredient in becoming a peaceful person. The prophet Isaiah said, “They will not hurt anymore,
neither will they destroy anymore, because the whole earth has
become full of the knowledge of God.” You say, “Poppycock.
Bullroar! Fantasies!” Not understanding that the peace of God
always begins with the Spirit of the Prince of Peace living inside
of you. There is no replacement for that. When the Spirit of the
Prince of Peace begins to live inside of you, you start becoming a
peaceful person. You can’t skip that ingredient in the
Second, anytime the
Spirit of the Prince of Peace lives inside of you, it results in
righteousness. Righteousness. Right relationships between two people
or nations. Righteousness is to treat other with gentleness,
kindness and forgiveness. I am going to treat you right and you are
going to be right with me. Righteousness always consists of a
healthy dose of forgiveness. You can’t have peace in any family
without forgiveness. You just can’t. The Spirit of the Prince of
Peace inevitably motivates us to work towards righteousness in all
Third, anytime the
Spirit of the Prince of Peace lives inside of you, it results in
justice. You cannot have peace without justice. When the Prince of
Peace is inside of you, you work for justice for the poor, the
oppressed, and the millions or billions on earth who are hungry and
starving and don’t have clean water or gainful employment. If
there is no justice, there is no peace. Justice is always involves
work; you work for justice. Justice doesn’t naturally
happen on its own. Justice does not just fall in your lap, like an
apple falling from a tree. You work at planting the tree, watering
the tree, pruning the tree, so that apples will fall in your lap.
And so it is with God’s justice.
What is the great
tragedy? People want to take shortcuts. People always want to take
shortcuts to peace, and there are not shortcuts to peace in our
families, in our stomachs, and no shortcuts to peace in the world.
There are no shortcuts with having the Prince of Peace live within.
There are no shortcuts with righteousness or justice.
I would like to
tell you some “shortcut stories” that didn’t’ work. I used
to be a canoe guide up in northern Minnesota. We took kids from
churches and from a state training school out on canoe trips. There
was this one portage that looked like a shortcut into another piece
of water, and so I had the boys take that shortcut with their six
canoes and twelve bodies. We didn’t make the shortcut. It was too
steep, too impenetrable. We had to paddle around the point for two
days in order to get to our destination. Others had tried that
shortcut before me, and they too failed. Two days of paddling is
what it took to get the job done, to get to our destination.
… Another example of shortcuts not working. If you are
going to sew a button on your coat, there are no shortcuts. I
guarantee it. I challenge any of you to sew a button on a coat
without a needle and thread. You have to take the thread and put it
through the eye of the needle or it won’t work. I don’t care who
you are; you have to do that. There are no shortcuts. I have tried
other shortcuts. I have tried to use tape. I have tried wads of tap,
masking tape, two sided tape, everlasting tape and none of them have
worked. I have tried the glues, even superglue that holds a hundred
pounds, a thousand pounds, a million pounds. I then put my button
through the buttonhole and within minutes, the button fell off. We
all know that there are no shortcuts when sewing on a button. I
don’t have to persuade you of the truth of that. That’s the way
Likewise, there are
no shortcuts to God’s peace.
All three steps are needed; all three ingredients are
absolutely essential: the
Prince of Peace inside, righteousness, and justice. To be honest, my
wife’s recipe for salmon sauce isn’t that complicated either. In
fact, her recipe for salmon sauce is rather simple, but you need all
the ingredients. If you leave out just one ingredient from
her simple recipe, it won’t taste like it should. It won’t be
Jan’s yummy Salmon Sauce Recipe. … And so it is with God’s
peace. The recipe isn’t that complicated, but we need all three
ingredients or it won’t work. It won’t be God’s Recipe for
The angels in the
Christmas story were singing high above the shepherds and they sang,
“Peace on earth, good will towards all people, with whom God is
well pleased.” The angels did not sing, “Peace on earth for all
people. … Peace on earth carte blanche. Anyone with a credit card
can charge it.” Rather, the song of peace adds a crucial
ingredient, “with whom God is well pleased;’ that is, people who
do the will of God will find peace. Many people want the shortcut
and omit the phrase, “with whom God is well pleased.”
Do you long for
peace? Do you long for peace in your marriage? Do you long for peace
in your family? Do you long for peace in yourself? Do you long for
peace among the nations? Yes, we all do.
Peace can become an
actuality in our lives. Some cynics don’t believe it, but peace
can actually happen. The years have passed, and miraculously, there is more peace
between certain nations. From
centuries ago, the Germans and the French and the English were
ferocious enemies and now they are working towards a common currency
and are most important trading partners and military partners
through NATO. Yet in
the history of things, it wasn’t that many years ago that they
were ferocious enemies. The Americans and the Japanese are now
crucial trading partners, but it wasn’t that many years ago our
nations were dropping bombs and locked in hand to hand combat on
islands in the Pacific. And,
yes, there are no more death squads in El Salvador. You see, given
time, and these other factors that I mentioned, peace can and does
happen, even to all of you cynics here that don’t believe in
God’s peace. Peace can happen in your stomach. Peace can happen in
your marriage. Peace can happen in your children.
Peace can happen all over the place because we are made in
the image of God. We
are made for peace and we long for peace and we then work for peace.
We know that there are no shortcuts to peace, although some people
foolishly try them. There is a recipe for peace: The Prince of Peace
inside our hearts and motivations who then works for righteousness
and justice. When it is all done, many individuals, families and
nations find peace and live in peace.
Isaiah was our
dreamer of peace. How we love his visions. How we love his divine
possibilities for our lives. Isaiah’s chapter eleven may be the
most beautiful dream of peace in the whole Bible. Amen.