ISAIAH 43:1-10

LUKE 3:15-17-22

Listen to Priceless


When we are in love we are willing to pay a pretty high price to impress our beloved because the one we love is priceless to us. For example, often we as people put a lot of time, energy, and money, into marriage proposals. One man created a custom monopoly set. He hid the ring under the luxury tax space. Another star wars fan got engaged by giving his girlfriend a Sith lightsaber with a message that read, “join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as husband and wife.”  Another man had a Pride and Prejudice themed marriage proposal, complete with Victorian style outfits. Another man proposed in a dolphin tank and had a dolphin hold a buoy in its mouth that read, “will you marry me.”   Even though dolphins are mammals the last proposal sounds a little fishy if you ask me.

In our passage from Isaiah today, God is expressing his steadfast love to the people of Israel.  God’s love is not based on our appearance and our accomplishments. God has no need to be in a relationship. He had no need to create any creatures to worship him. But out of the abundance of his love, out of his mercy and good pleasure, he created all that we see and he made us to be filled with His Love. But from the Garden of Eden, while God chose us, we did not chose God, we walked away from God. But God had a plan for redemption. He delivered his people out of slavery in Egypt and made a covenant with them. He chose a people for himself, the nation of Israel, to set apart from other nations.  He said he would sacrifice nations for his people.  And yet Israel turned away. And they found themselves in exile in Babylon. And perhaps that is how we feel today. We feel like we are in exile. Exile in our nation, in our churches, in our families. Exiles in our own homes. But the good news is God has a plan for redemption

The Good News.  When we honor God’s only Son we become priceless

First, to become priceless we must understand the price the LORD paid to make us priceless. We must understand the value of God’s only Son Jesus.  I believe the Bible says that all of humanity was made by God but not all of humanity are children of God. We are estranged from God and to become children of God we must go through a process of adoption, we must go through a process of redemption. This redemption is initiated by God not by us.

The word for redemption in this passage is a legal term in the Hebrew Bible that is important to understand. The noun for it can be roughly translated as kinsman-redeemer.  Every society develops different ways to take care of the poor and the vulnerable. Israel was no exception. Deutronomy 25:5 states that when a man dies his brother is to marry his former wife. In doing so the brother would liquidate some of his land to buy the property of his dead brother. The son from this marriage would not be given the name of the living brother, but would be given the name of the dead brother, thus carrying on the family line of the dead brother through the living one. Thus to be a kinsman redeemer, to be your brother’s keeper, was an expensive proposition. You would take away from your own family’s inheritance to ensure the survival of your brother’s family. There was nothing in it for the living brother. To be your brother’s keeper was an expensive proposition.

In that culture sons and daughters were treated differently. We know that to be wrong. Jesus shows us that is wrong. But in that culture to be provided for you needed to have a son. To be without a son would mean starvation and certain death.

Thus we see Jesus, his value for men and women, in Luke 7:11. In this story we find a widow who is going through town, following her dead son’s funeral procession. And Jesus comes and raises him to life.  Now in any culture loosing a child is one of the most horrible things that could happen to a person. And if that has happened to you today I weep with you and I mourn with you. It feels like the end of the world. But for this widow it was the end of the world. Without her son this widow would starve to death. And people would let her starve to death. But Jesus said no. This is my daughter to and she is priceless. Not only did he raise her son and give her son back to her, he gave her life back to her.

Because we object to a lot of language and culture in the Old Testament we don’t understand what the Lord is saying when he tears open the heavens and says, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” He is saying this is my life, this is my world, this is someone priceless to me, who is worth more than anything I ever created, because he was with me before the foundations of creation.

So in John 3:16 where the Gospel writer says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever believed in him should not perish,” he is saying that the world is full of widows. We are all widows, we are all empty, and we have no life without his son. And even though all of creation cannot compare to the glory of his Son, he gave us his son, he gave us a priceless gift.  And yet our culture only recognizes that gift on Christmas and Easter. And yet He is a priceless gift. When we see his value He gives us the power to have his life. He gives us the power to become Sons and Daughters of God. And you could sell all the world, every car you have ever owned, and you could never get that. But Jesus gives us that freely because we can never pay for it.

This passage from Isaiah is paired with Luke 3:15-17, 21-22 in the New Testament. In this passage John the Baptist tells the crowds that are seeking his baptism of repentance, “I baptize you with water but he who is mightier than I is coming, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” After that Jesus came to be baptized. Luke records after his baptism, Jesus was praying, “the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

I was reminded of our redemption by God’s Sovereign Grace by an event that happened to my family over the Christmas break. As you may recall I became an uncle on December 17th, when my sister Caitlin Reynolds, gave birth to her son and my nephew Rowan.

It was Saturday December 29th, (correction to the recording). And I was in the basement of my sister’s house, when I heard a big thud come from the kitchen. Then I heard cries of surprise. I rushed up the stairs as fast as I could. As did other family members that were in different parts of the house. Apparently, my brother in law’s mother had been holding Rowan as she was sitting on a metal kitchen stool. Somehow the bolts that held the seat of the stool together became undone and the seat fell apart. I wasn’t there to see this, but apparently Rowan’s grandmother fell backwards, at least four feet, with Rowan clutched in her hands like a football. She nearly bashed her head on the kitchen table. Miraculously, she was only bruised and Rowan was unharmed.

Rowan’s grandmother recounted that when she realized she was falling her maternal instincts took over and she held onto Rowan for dear life. In the moment, without even thinking, she was willing to do anything, for someone who she knew in her heart to be priceless from the moment of his birth. Someone who couldn’t do anything for himself. The entire family was rather shook up by this freak accident. But Rowan didn’t even cry. Wrapped in his grandmother’s arms he didn’t have a care in the world as he fell. As he fell to a fate that he could not understand he had no fear, for he was wrapped in love, and there is no fear in love for perfect love casts out fear.

Rowan’s experience, I believe is a metaphor for our spiritual state. All of humanity is in the middle of a great fall, we just don’t know it. Scripture tells us what is at the bottom of that fall, a threshing floor, where he will separate the wheat from the chaff. And he tells us that we don’t want to be the chaff. And thing is you can’t break your fall. You can try. You can make a parachute to do it yourself. You can try to become a powerful adult. But scripture says the enter the Kingdom of God you have to be like my nephew, a helpless baby. Because until we are helpless we cannot receive help from the Lord.  But when you do you will be wrapped in the arms of love.

But scripture says the value of God’s Son is hidden from us. Jesus says no one knows the Father except the Son and no one knows the Son except the Father and anyone to whom the Father chooses to reveal him to (Matthew 11:27). And even we as Christians today may not know the extent of the priceless gift we have been given. But Jesus says if we ask we shall receive that our joy may be complete (John 16:24). So let us ask him today the priceless gift of his Son that we to may become priceless.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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