“Have You Not Known, Have You No Heard?”
I want to first quickly set the context of what was and had been transpiring when the prophet Isaiah spoke his words of comfort, that we read in today’s text. So we’ll have a better understanding of what, or how these words speak to us today.
The OT prophet Isaiah spoke words of assurance and a return of God’s transience for persons of God who had endured hardship’s and a sense of abandonment, seemingly indifference and some sense of despair.
Now I feel it doubly important to say they have gotten themselves into this predicament of exile by their own disregard of saying and doing religious actions and functions, but not living them.
Today’s reading comes out of second Isaiah, around 530 BCE, the people are living in Mesopotamia, the Babylonian capitol, they have been exiled away from Judah some 40-to-70 years.
Judeans experienced exile differently — there were probably various groups in various places. Some, like those who were with the former king Jehoiachin seem to have received rations from the royal court and may have eventually been treated reasonably well. Others, however, may have been located in what were essentially labor camps. Even in the best case, the homecoming and restoration in Judah would have been a very difficult matter, however, for the land had been devastated and had not been rebuilt.
Historical reports share that there was no crush of people begging and jumping in line to live in the then destroyed city of Jerusalem. Why? It was without a temple or effective walls; the comforts and protections that a city would normally have afforded in the ancient world were missing. In fact, the people had to cast lots to see who would live there, and they “blessed all those who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem.” After fifty or more years in exile, most of those returning would have hardly known the place. Exile was hard, but returning was difficult, too.
This would be this generations “exile” experience, the closing words of todays text speak to both aged or old who had known lived and experienced Jerusalem before its destruction and the young who had not known nor seen it. So a word of hope for the old: “Have You Not Known?” and a word of assurance and being grounded in faith to the young; “Have You Not Heard?”
The closing metaphor, “they shall rise up with wings like eagles” is the poetic pinnacle of the passage, and evokes the Exodus again. The biblical witness is that from age to age, God hears the cries of God’s people and empowers them — in exhaustion, in oppression, and in other moments of greatest need.
No matter the circumstance, no matter the situation the words of the prophet not only ask but loudly and boldly declares; “Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard? The glory of, the greatness, the love, concern, passion and justice of God!
Where we are both as a nation and as a people of God must be seriously reviewed and understood, and this is given greater credence and importance given what recently unfolded at our nations cradle of freedom and democracy.
I was taken aback as I witnessed in live time the attempted coup and insurrection to violently imped and halt the peaceful transfer of national executive leadership that has transpired for over two-hundred and forty years in our nation’s history, of the office of the presidency of our nation, as prescribed and dictated in our founding and governing constitution.
As I witnessed this violent assault on freedom and an attempt to thwart the will of the people from installing the legally and duly elected president and vice-president. Just as troubling, if not more so in the scenes and images broadcasted globally were those present relating to and conveying in a twisted mis-appropriation of Christian dogma, and a perverse approval by God of the unfolding event.
My beloved brothers and sisters of Christ Jesus, did you not see as I saw, individuals carrying crosses, some holding up what I guess was the “Holy Bible,” others carrying placards that read “God Saves.” Some waving and carrying flags with “Trump and God” printed on them, others with signs stating “God, Guns and Guts,” to others carrying the traditional flag of Christianity!
What God exactly were these insurrectionist glorifying, what was the nature of such a God they worshiped, that that God would deem their destructive and deadly rampage as acceptable and pleasing?
I will offer to you this, there exist a direct unbroken line between these individuals and the God they have constructed and seek to glorify, and the one Dr. ML King asked about in his 1963 letter from the Birmingham Jailed, when he wrote a response to an open published letter of criticism from 8 white clergy, two of whom were Methodist bishops, and two rabbis, for his participation and leadership in protest demonstrations in Birmingham. Dr. King wondered and asked what God they were worshiping and serving;
I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looks at the South’s beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld their impressive outlines of her massive religious education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking; ‘What kind of people worship here? Who is their God?… as Reinhold Niebuhr has reminded us, groups are more immoral than individuals.”
I ask of each of you this morning “Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard? That God Almighty, the Eternal and Everlasting is a God of justice, mercy, mercy compassion and grace?
Deuteronomy 32:4 states concerning the nature of God; “God is the Rock, God’s works are perfect, and all God’s ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is God.”
The Psalmist writes; “The LORD is good to all, and God’s mercies are over all God’s works.” The Psalmist continues on the righteous justice of God, declaring;
He upholds the cause of the oppressed
and gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets prisoners free,
8 the Lord gives sight to the blind,
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down,
the Lord loves the righteous.
9 The Lord watches over the foreigner
and sustains the fatherless and the widow,
but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.
As the insurrectionist stormed the capitol building, a symbol of freedom and democracy, not just for us, for our nation, but also for the world, they did such because of the lies, the untruths and more specifically at the invitation and behest of the then sitting president.
As they stormed the cradle of democracy they’re recorded shouting statements of “where is Nancy, we’re gonna put a bullet in her brain,” “hang Mike Pence,” with a gallows and noose they had erected, and “where is AOC, we’re gonna kill the “B.” Am I, are you, or we to believe that the God of Abraham, Sarah, Jacob, Moses, Isaiah and Jerimiah was with them, blessing them, being glorified by them and these atrocious actions?
One may try and make futile attempts to cover over such acts with veneers of patriotism, or worst the approval, blessings and praise of God, however to such one must first desecrate, taint, violate and corrupt the true will and nature of God.
Now hear me, and hear me well beloved brothers and sisters of Christ; ‘I’m not saying you are or were unable to support or vote for Donald Trump because you Christian, but what I am saying is this-Don’t tell me that it is precisely because you’re a Christian-That is why you voted for, and supported Donald Trump. Have You Not Known, Have You Not Heard,
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)NIV
God does not want you to only act religious, to perform the rituals, to recite the ancient texts, to know the liturgies and the lectionary, but to love the LORD with all that you are, and have; to love your neighbor as you love yourself. This is what the LORD God calls and compels us to do. In the first chapter of Isaiah the prophet preaches what we hear from Micah, but Isaiah gives us greater detail declaring;
When you come to appear before me,
who has asked this of you,
this trampling of my courts?
13 Stop bringing meaningless offerings!
Your incense is detestable to me…
I cannot bear your worthless assemblies.
14 Your New Moon feasts and your appointed festivals
I hate with all my being.
They have become a burden to me;
I am weary of bearing them.
15 When you spread out your hands in prayer,
I hide my eyes from you;
even when you offer many prayers,
I am not listening.
Your hands are full of blood!
16 Wash and make yourselves clean.
Take your evil deeds out of my sight;
stop doing wrong.
17 Learn to do right; seek justice.
Defend the oppressed.[a]
Take up the cause of the fatherless;
plead the case of the widow.
18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured…” (Isaiah 1:12-20)
It’s not just about your worship of God, a loving compassionate justice loving God, it’s about both your walk God, as well as with the stranger, hurt, the oppressed, the least and the last. “Have You Not Known of Such A God, Have You Not heard of Such A God?
Isaiah spoke truth to a people when he spoke these words some twenty-five hundred years ago, he preached as they prepared for their exodus, out of strange place, back to place of their earlier ancestors. I offer you this morning, today, these same words as we prepare for our journey out of this strange place in a familiar land we now find ourselves. Have you not Known, Have You Not Heard, that the LORD requires of You to love mercy, love justice, and walk humbly before thy Lord God. Amen