Here I Am! Here I Am!

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Isa 65:1 "I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' To a nation that was not called by My name.
 2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts;
 Heb 10:19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus,
 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh,
 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God,
 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.
 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works,
 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
 26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
 28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
 29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
 30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The LORD will judge His people."
 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
 Mt 21:33 "Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country.
 34 "Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit.
 35 "And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another.
 36 "Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them.
 37 "Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.'
 38 "But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.'
 39 "So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
 40 "Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?"
 41 They said to Him, "He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons."
 42 Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: 'The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD'S doing, And it is marvelous in our eyes'?
 43 "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.
 44 "And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder."

Let’s start with the flood. After the flood God gave Noah and his sons one very simple command. He said, “Be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly in the earth and multiply in it.” He said, “Spread out, fill the earth!” So what did they do?
They all hung around the land of Shinar. Congregating in one place instead of spreading out. They decide to build a tower to heaven. “Let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

Do you see their rebellion? We don’t need God to get to heaven. We can make a name for ourselves! We can get the glory! We don’t need to do this scattering thing. So they didn’t, and God punished them by confusing their language and that forced them into the nations. Oh they made a name for themselves alright......that name is Gentiles.

Through time, the promises of God made to Noah became a dim memory to the Gentiles and they were lost because of their rebellion, many remain lost till this day.  The sins of the fathers handed down to the children. Just think of the generations of lost souls that resulted from this rebellion and forgetfulness.  Just think how quickly it happened then and how quickly it could happen now. It only takes one generation.

But God had a plan to reclaim humanity, to reclaim the Gentiles, and that plan would come through Abraham. And in Gen 12:1-3 we hear of this great plan.

 Ge 12:1 Now the LORD had said to Abram: "Get out of your country, From your family And from your father's house, To a land that I will show you.  2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you And make your name great; And you shall be a blessing.  3 I will bless those who bless you, And I will curse him who curses you; And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."

Abraham’s relatives were already into idolatry with the rest of the Gentiles, so God called him away from his family and in verse 2 He promises to make Abraham and his descendants into a great nation......namely the Jews. And they were great!

They were great because God in His grace and mercy chose them to keep His oracles. (Record His Word) He gave them His Law. He provided for them, and it was through the Jews that the Messiah of the world would come.

This is plain in v3, He not only speaks to Abraham, but He also speaks to the Seed of Christ, which was already present in his loins, and He says, “I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you.” (He’s talking to the Seed here and not Abraham, and basically saying that believers in the Seed will be blessed, but unbelievers will be cursed.) “And in you (the Seed) all the families of the earth (Jew and Gentile) shall be blessed.” God spoke to that Seed as if It already existed.....because It did.

Through the Seed, (Jesus Christ) all the Gentiles and all the Jews who have faith like Abraham would be blessed. You see, Abraham, even though he and Sarah were past child bearing age, believed that the Seed that God was talking about was indeed in him and would somehow come to life. He believed in the Seed and God accounted it to him as righteousness.

The saving faith of Abraham in the Seed is exactly the same as the saving faith of the Gentile. Except we have the added advantage of looking back and seeing historically, the sprouting of that Seed, from the Branch of Jesse,  and the completion of Its earthly mission, in the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.

And as we approach the commemoration of the Reformation it would be good to remind ourselves again, that “The just shall live by faith.” By faith in the Seed of Abraham...the Lord Jesus Christ!

We live eternally because we believe, we trust, in the Gospel promises of God concerning Jesus’ finished work on the cross. Our salvation does not depend on what we do, but on what God has done!

And so God’s plan involved reversing the curse of Babel, and this was made evident on the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples spoke the wonderful works of God in other languages.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God! And just as Isaiah prophesied, God was sought and found by those who historically had lost their knowledge of Him.....the Gentiles, who had been dispersed at Babel.

How were these Gentiles, you and me brought back into the family of God? God came to us, to our ancestors, through the disciples as they obeyed Jesus’ command to go!. Their message was the Gospel, which basically is God  saying, through Jesus, “Here I am, here I am.”  “I am here for the believing, I am here for the receiving.”

I love that mental picture of a loving heavenly Father, calling out to His frightened, lost children, through the Gospel. “Here I am! Here I am!” You don’t need to be lost anymore! And all those who hear His call and respond to it shall be saved.

The sad news in all this, is that while God told of a time that He would be reaching out and inviting the Gentiles, the Jews would remain in their rebellious ways. They would reject grace and opt for salvation through works of the Law.  They rejected the SEED, they rejected the Cornerstone, and unless they repent, chosen people or not, they will be broken and ground to powder. That is the lot for all who reject Christ, Jew or Gentile.
This is the whole point of the parable that we read of in our Gospel lesson.

A certain landowner (God) planted a vineyard ( a church, a called and chosen people) and set a hedge around it. (The hedge was any and everything that God put around His children to keep them from diluting their faith with the practices of the Gentiles.

He kept them separate from the Egyptians, settling them in the land of Goshen. He gave them the Law (moral and ceremonial, giving them a distinction that no other people group had) He demanded death for the conquered Gentiles in the Promise Land, as still another safeguard. He forbid intermarriage, and demanded that all the Gentile worship sites be torn down.)

The children of God are to be a separate people. They are to stand out from the world. But time after time the Israelites played the harlot with the Gentiles. We are no different today. Can anyone here truly say that the church in general today is much different than the world?

And God cries out, “Here I am! Here I am!” But we’re too engrossed in the pleasures of the world and we don’t hear His call, or if we do....we ignore it.  The only difference between the world and the church these days seems to be that the world sleeps in on Sunday

Peter writes:

1Pe 1:15 but as He who called you (Here I am! Here I Am!) is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct,  16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy."

So God planted this vineyard. He protected it. He gave it everything it needed to succeed. He has done it to an even greater degree for the church today thanks to the indwelling Holy Spirit. He sent His servants (the prophets) that they might receive the fruit of the vineyard, namely repentance, faith, and works of faith.

But when the prophets tried to show them their sin, to lead them to repentance, they were beaten, killed, and stoned. So God sent more with the same result, and last of all He sent His Son.

But when the vinedressers, (the Jewish leaders) saw the Son, they said let us kill Him and seize the inheritance. This was just another way of saying, let us kill Him, so we can keep what we got going here.
There is no doubt that this was their motive. Speaking of Pontius Pilate, Mark writes:

 Mr 15:10 For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.
And the Apostle John tells us:

Joh 11:48,53 "If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation." 53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.

And they caught Him, and they cast Him out of the vineyard (Jerusalem) and killed Him. They crucified Him on a hill called Calvary outside Jerusalem)

And because of this rejection of the Son, the Seed of Abraham (Jesus) the kingdom of God would be taken away from the Jews and given to the Gentiles. And if they continue to reject the Son and cling to the adherence of ceremonial Law and moral Law for salvation, they will be lost!

The rules are forever the same for Jew and Gentile alike. (Believe, have trust in the Seed of Abraham for salvation) Whoever falls on this stone (trips over the idea that Faith in the Seed, faith in Jesus is what saves, will be broken) Ultimately Jesus will crush them.

 Joh 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Does this mean that no Jew can be saved! Of course not! Paul writes in Romans.

Rom 11:23 “And they (the Jews) also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again!

What we have seen so far, is that the Jewish way of salvation through observance of the Law is a death trap. Not only a death trap to the Jews, but to any and every Christian sect that would add works to the salvation equation. It is by grace alone! It is not what we do, but what God has done!

God foretold to the Jews what He would do, and He did it all in Jesus Christ. He showed His plan to the Jews in almost everything that He did. The OT shouts loud and often, “Here I Am! Here I am! I’m coming! After His resurrection Jesus spoke with a couple of disciples on the road to Emmaus

 Lu 24:27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

He said, “Here I am! Here I am!” I have arrived!”  Armed with that explanation and the power of the Holy Spirt, the disciples went out and proclaimed “Here I am! Here I am!” to Jew and Gentile alike!

His message through the Apostles was give up on the Law and trust Jesus alone.

This is one thing that will help you understand the letter to the Hebrews. It was written to counteract a movement that was taking place in the churches. People (especially Messianic Jews)  were defecting from Christianity and returning to Judaism. Seeking to rely on the OT practices and ceremonial Laws for salvation.

It was physically safer to do that to escape the persecution that had broken out against the Christians, but the writer of Hebrews continually stresses what has been won for them in Christ and to not forsake it! And he sternly warns them about the repercussions of returning to Judaism.

It’s not that we can’t sing Jewish songs, or even observe Jewish days, or even get circumcised, but if we make them a pre-requisite for salvation we have “trampled the Son of God underfoot,” counting His blood as a common thing.  

This is serious business. v26, “For if we sin willfully after we  have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.” In your willful disobedience in this returning to temple practices for salvation,  you have effectively erased Christ from the picture, and put Him back in the loins of Abraham.  

You have denied the Seed of Abraham, believing that Christ has not yet come, and that’s why this is such a terrible sin,  because you are living and believing a hopeless lie, hoping in something that can’t possibly come to pass, because it already has.  

For the most part this sin is of no interest to you, but I know of people who have had children who have gone astray in this area. They have rejected Christianity and embraced Judaism. So I think our young people need to be told of the seriousness of this sin, lest they fall into the same trap.

Most of the time this trap is set through  marriage. Young people, purpose in your heart right now, that you will only marry a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ.  If this person that you are getting serious with is not a Christian, take it to mean that it is not God’s will for you to marry them.

 Mal 2:11 Judah has dealt treacherously, And an abomination has been committed in Israel and in Jerusalem, For Judah has profaned The LORD'S holy institution which He loves: He has married the daughter of a foreign god.

It’s interesting how it has come full circle. The Jews were at one time told not to marry Gentiles, and now Gentile believers are told not to marry umbelieving Jews.

A couple of other things to remember about this portion of Hebrews.

First of all, remember what God accomplished in you at your baptism. He washed away all your sins, you don’t need to keep repeating the temple sacrifices. With sins removed, by faith you will no longer be troubled by a guilty conscience, as you confess them and put them under the blood of Jesus.  If you struggle with guilt, daily go back to your baptism, and believe what God did for you!

 1Pe 3:21 There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,

Baptism gives us the answer of a good conscience toward God. We know nothing will be held against us as long as we keep the faith!

Secondly, let’s not allow the love of Christ placed in us at our baptism to grow cold. Let us consider each other (the Greek means let us observe each other fully) and you can’t do this by meeting up with each other once a week at a church service! You need to get to know each other through fellowship together, prayer together, study together.

Why? In order to stir up, get the coals to heat up a little,  stir the fire of love for one another expressed in good works for one another. Remember the second part of our mission statement, “to glorify Christ as we learn to live for the sake of others rather than ourselves!”

And don’t forsake the assembling of ourselves together. Don’t neglect church. In context, some in the days that this letter was written were pulling away from being seen with Christians, lest they be identified with them, and face persecution. So they stopped going to church.

 We are not experiencing any such persecution......yet. But we still need to meet for mutual encouragement, especially as we see the Day approaching, and if you don’t see the Day approaching, you need to get your blinders off.

Let me give you a couple of signs, if you need any.

 Mt 24:14 "And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.

This has for the most part been accomplished. The “Here I am, here I am!” has been spoken in ever country of the world.

 2Ti 3:1 But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:
 2 For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,
 3 unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good,
 4 traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,

The evidence mounts daily for our Lord’s return. Therefore come to church. Run to church! Receive encouragement. Be reminded weekly of what took place at your baptism. Speak the confession from you heart! Hear the absolution in your soul! Partake of the Lord’s Supper. In all these things....God shouts, “Here I Am, Here I Am.!  Come to Me my lost child! I’m here for the believing! Just trust my promises! I’m here for the receiving!  I invite you to believe and receive Him today.