October 20 & 21, 2018 – Pentecost 22 (Mission Festival)
Gather! Come! Draw near together, you survivors from the nations. They have no knowledge—those who are lifting up their idols of wood and praying to a god that cannot save. Make an announcement and come close. Let them consult together. Who made this known ahead of time? From time past who announced it? Was it not I, the Lord? There is no god except me, a righteous God and Savior. There is no one except me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, because I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by myself. From my mouth a righteous word has gone out, and it will not return unfulfilled. Indeed, to me every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance. “Only in the Lord,” they will say of me, “Only in the Lord is there true righteousness and strength.” To him they will come and be ashamed—all those who are angry at him. In the Lord, all the descendants of Israel will be justified. They will be praised by him.
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Do you know what the G.O.A.T. is? We’re not talking about an animal. G.O.A.T. stands for Greatest Of All Time. There’s plenty of arguing over that title when it comes to sports. Who’s the GOAT of quarterbacks? Many say that is Tom Brady. Who’s the GOAT of basketball? Is it Michael Jordan? Who’s the GOAT of boxing? No need for anyone to vote there. Muhammad Ali told everyone: “I am the greatest!” No matter who claims to be the GOAT, there will always be debate, because there are always several candidates for the title.
Think back to Isaiah’s words for us today. Who claimed to be the GOAT? The LORD. He said, “I am God, and there is no other.” He kept on repeating it. In fact, I read through chapter 45 and ahead to chapter 46 and counted. The LORD says “there is no other” 11 times! That’s a pretty big claim. The LORD isn’t just saying he’s the greatest of all time. He’s saying he’s the greatest, and there is no debate. No other god exists to challenge him. He is the one and only God.
Here comes one of those hard things that God has say. “Gather! Come! Draw near together, you survivors from the nations. They have no knowledge—those who are lifting up their idols of wood and praying to a god that cannot save.” The LORD makes it clear that people who pray to idols, to any false god, are praying to nothing. He wants all people from all nations to come to him, to believe in him, and to have eternal life.
The LORD calls to the people of Tibet. They consider Buddha the GOAT, so they burn incense and hang prayer flags that whip around in the wind, hoping Buddha will hear them. The LORD calls to the people of India. Brahman is their GOAT. They look to him for truth and wash themselves in the sacred Ganges River to wash away their faults. He calls to the people of Africa. The spirits of their ancestors are their GOAT. They look to them for solutions to their problems. He calls to the followers of Islam. Allah is their GOAT. They keep the five pillars and try to satisfy Allah. The LORD calls to them because the god they follow is fictitious. “There is no other!”
The LORD also calls the people of this nation—the United States of America. He is calling us because we like to argue about who is the GOAT and forget about the LORD. We like to put ourselves on a pedestal to make ourselves feel better. “I’m better than you because_____________.” We argue about who is the greatest because there’s always room for competition. We tell ourselves that we are the GOATs. We are just as ignorant as someone worshiping a piece of wood. We just worship ourselves.
Whether we have idolized some other god, some personal possession, or even ourselves as the GOAT, what are we really worshiping? Do you remember the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal? He challenged the prophets to a duel. Whoever prayed for fire from heaven to burn up their sacrifice would win. The prophets of Baal prayed and worshiped and danced all day, even cutting themselves to try and make their god answer. “But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention” (1 Kings 18:29). Baal didn’t answer because Baal is nothing. There is no other! There’s only one God—no one else!
The one and only God has made a serious promise, and he always keeps his word. He promised, “I have sworn by myself. From my mouth a righteous word has gone out, and it will not return unfulfilled. Indeed, to me every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance. ‘Only in the Lord,’ they will say of me, ‘Only in the Lord is there true righteousness and strength.’ To him they will come and be ashamed—all those who are angry at him.”
It doesn’t matter whether we worship a non-existent god or ourselves, or absolutely nothing. One day every knee will bow before the King of the Universe. One day every mouth will have to confess that the words of the Bible are the truth. On Judgment Day all who have raged against the LORD, who have burned with anger and rebellion against his words and promises will “be ashamed.” Shame isn’t dying and ceasing to exist. Shame isn’t dying and finding out that all religions led to the same place. Shame means separation from the LORD forever, punished in a place of fire and torment. That’s shame. That’s scary!
“There is no one except me.” If he’s the only one, the GOAT, how can we be saved? We are sinners who have time and time again broken that first commandment which tells us to have no other God. We deserve hell because of those sins. How can we be saved? Here’s his answer: “There is no god except me, a righteous God and Savior. There is no one except me. Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth, because I am God, and there is no other.” The LORD used a special name for himself. He called himself “Savior.” Do you recognize that name? Do you know its significance? “Savior” is the name the angel of the Lord told Joseph to give Mary’s son. “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus (which means Savior), because he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). There he is, the Savior. Jesus is true God who became one of us. He came to rescue us from all the different paths we follow to try and save ourselves. Jesus came for those who follow Buddha. He came to give real enlightenment as the Light of the World. Jesus came for the people of India. He washes us with water that wipes away sin once and for all and we never need to wash again. Jesus came for the people of Africa, a brother who rose from the dead and conquered the grave. They don’t need to go to the spirits of the dead for help. Jesus came for every Muslim. He lived a perfect life for them so they can stand before their heavenly Father forgiven and free. Jesus came for us—for people who doubt he exists, for people who worship ourselves, our money, our status. Jesus came to save us from our sins so that we can have life forever. He is the GOAT because he is our Savior, our one and only God.
Jesus is our Savior, and one day we will join with every nation in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. The apostle Paul wrote, “When he was born in human likeness, and his appearance was like that of any other man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:8–11).
Today we are celebrating a Mission Festival. If there is only one God, and if Jesus is truly the GOAT when it comes to eternal salvation, what does that mean for the rest of the world who don’t know him, who are still trapped in a relationship with a god that doesn’t exist? They need to know him. We need to share him. Do you have a friend, a relative, an acquaintance, or a neighbor who doesn’t know Jesus? We don’t need to travel the world to find our mission field. It’s right here, right around us. Look around. Listen. When the opportunity arrives, when they are going through a difficult time, share the one and only God with them. Give them a little bit of God’s Word, a little bit of Jesus whenever you can. They need to hear about him.
We have another awesome opportunity to do mission work as members of Calvary. Every year we make a commitment to give some of our offerings to our church body. Our gifts, joined with the gifts from other WELS congregations, train pastors and teachers to share the good news about Jesus here in the United States and around the world. They provide materials to share with others through Northwestern Publishing House. God even gets mission work done apart from our offerings. This past year our church body has received hundreds of requests from groups around the world. “Please, send people to train our pastors so that we can spread the good news about Jesus.” Our Synod cannot keep up with all the requests that are made.
Our God? The GOAT? He is. He is the one and only God, the one and only judge of all, the one and only Savior of the world. He saved you from the punishment you deserve for your sins. He saved you from an eternity in hell. That’s how much he loves you. Are you ready to share him with someone? Pray for the opportunity. The LORD has one waiting for you. Amen.