16 The LORD’s justice will dwell in the desert,
his righteousness live in the fertile field.
17 The fruit of that righteousness will be peace;
its effect will be quietness and confidence forever.
18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
in secure homes,
in undisturbed places of rest.
19 Though hail flattens the forest
and the city is leveled completely,
20 how blessed you will be,
sowing your seed by every stream,
and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.
A middle-relief pitcher has a relatively quiet existence. His routine is mostly out of the limelight. He sits kind of removed from the action out in the bullpen until called upon. Then, his job is to get the outs needed, slap a couple hands on the way to the dugout, and take in the rest of the game from the bench. After the game, he really shouldn’t see too many reporters clamoring to hear how it went out there on the mound. His job was to throw 15, 20, maybe 30 pitches and get a few outs. Not the stuff of intrigue to the common fan. He was necessary for the win, but not as stout as the pitcher who goes 7 strong innings, not as flashy as the quick-footed shortstop who makes amazing, diving stops and strong throws, not as frenzy-invoking as the big first baseman who hits the winning homer. And so the relief pitcher gets to shower up and head home with little to no fanfare. It’s a quiet job, and he’s ok with that.
That was not Josh Hader’s night on Tuesday at the All-Star Game. He is a Brewers reliever who was selected to be there because he has been almost unhittable this season. Well, at this game he was uncharacteristically lousy, allowing 3 runs while only getting one out. Still, that would not set off the kind of firestorm that surrounded Josh Hader after the game.
See, during the game some tweets from the teenage Hader came to light. These social media posts were not good. Not even a little bit. Some where racist, using the n-word. Some were homophobic. Others were immoral and insensitive. Even though social media posts are sent pretty silently, these cropped up again caused an uproar that shocked not just a Brewers fan like me but the whole sports world and beyond. What should have been a quiet place in front of a middle-reliever’s locker on the losing side of the All-Star Game was filled with the clamor and questions of a media frenzy.
We’re getting pretty used to that kind of noise, aren’t we? Politics this. Politics that. Sports this. Sports that. Tragedy here. Tragedy there. Don’t get me wrong, we should pay attention to the world that we live in. We need to know about it in order to know how to help people who succumb to the deafening noise tune it out. But if you aren’t careful and alert I think that the overload of noise starts to clog our ears, too.
That’s the problem in Israel during the time of the prophet Isaiah. The ears of the Israelite people are overloaded with noise. And the noise comes from two places. First, it comes from negative outside influences. Living in this world, you will pick up some of the chatter that originates from other sources, won’t you? It makes total sense that the people of Israel would experience some of that outside noise from the nations around them. Whether it was the pagan worship, the immorality, the laziness, the pride, the Israelites heard that noise coming from the surrounding nations loud and clear.
You’ve probably noticed, there are people surrounding you that resonate with similar sounds. What else do you expect from people who have the natural, inborn me-first mentality? What else do you expect from people who think we are descendants of animals, that we are the ones who make rules, that God doesn’t exist and if he does he certainly doesn’t seem to be on your side? What else do you expect from people in this world of sin and death? There’s a lot of noise out there. And like a middle-relief pitcher who just wants to stay away from the clamor and questions, the noise is overwhelming at times.
The second place from which these reverberations come is a little more difficult to hear. It’s not that the volume or frequency is too low to hear it. The difficulty is in the realization of the source. Israel was coming up with a crude and calloused cacophony that was ruining the quiet and peaceful dwelling place God intended their nation to be. It was bad enough that the surrounding noise was drawing their attention, but the sounds of their own sinful hearts were drowning out God’s promised peace and security.
Brothers and sisters, we hear it, too. I’m sure Josh Hader knew that there was bigotry, racism, immorality, and hatred in this world. But then the source was revealed, or maybe reminded, that it was him. You don’t have listen to the news or to your neighbors to hear the echo of evil. It’s right there, coming from your own lips, your own heart.
Where there should be the quiet response of repentance, I come up with a flurry of excuses and explanations. Where there should be peace in God’s promises, I have the havoc of my own pride and self-reliance. Where there should be sweet sounds of worship and praise, I spew sour and scornful curses and condemnations. Where there should be compassion and love, my mouth is filled with complaints and carelessness. That’s the noise we hear, that’s the noise we too often produce.
Well, God saw what was going on in Israel and he knew he had some silencing to do. Kind of like a teacher in a loud classroom, you’ve got some options to bring the noise level down. You can be really quiet and wait for all the kids to notice how quiet you are. Speaking from experience, that one takes a while. Or you can give a loud clap or bang of some kind to snap all those kids out of the thunderous ruckus they are creating.
That’s what God describes here in verse 19, “…hail flattens the forest and the city [Jerusalem] is leveled completely. A forest can be a pretty noisy place, with birds calling, trees blowing, animals scurrying. I’m glad I’ve never been in a forest that is being flattened in a hailstorm, but I imagine it’s not a serene scene. It is after the storm, that’s when the quiet comes.
This was God’s way of describing how Israel was going to be silenced. God used the hailstorm of the Assyrian army to chop down Israel. He leveled the city of Jerusalem completely to get his people’s attention. Israel was deaf to God’s warning calls so he carried through with his justice to bring about the peace that they needed.
You notice where you are in this scene, right? You notice all the noise that surrounds you is not good for you, right? You notice that all the noise that is coming out of you and adding to the deafening roar, right? You notice that your ears are clogged up by the nonsense and missing out on the peacefulness and quiet rest, right?
Yes, friends, we are in the group that cannot quiet the noise and get back to the peace and rest of righteousness. God has some silencing to do in these ears, and he doesn’t do it with a hailstorm of Assyrians. He doesn’t do it with the sounds of smashing our community or our homes or this church.
The sound of destruction was a whip cracking and ripping in the Praetorium of Pilate’s palace, the groans of an unfairly punished man carrying his own cross, a hammer pounding nails, the cries of agony from someone hanging on a cross. Instead of at us, God aims his thunderous blows at his own Son, Jesus. And through him all the rage God has, all the outburst of his wrath against sin is taken away from us. It was his justice that demanded payment for sin. It was his righteousness that he wanted us to have that meant Jesus would have to be cut down, Jesus would have to be leveled completely.
And do you know what? A great roar or revelry went up in hell when Jesus was silenced by death. The devil thought that his evil racket would have deafening results in this world and for eternity. But three days later, he started to hear a different sound. It was not the sound of evil destruction but the sound of triumph and victory. It grew louder and louder. It echoed in the halls of hell for the devil, his evil angels, and all unbelievers to hear. CHRIST IS RISEN. HE IS RISEN INDEED. That was not a sweet sound to them but scorn and defeat. And the devil has to deal with that for the rest of eternity.
To you and I it is the sweet sound of salvation. Through Christ we are saved from all that would clog our ears and drown out God’s promises. Here’s how God puts it through his prophet: “The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.”
Do you hear that? …no noise… no destruction…no wrath…no punishment…no enemies… Do you hear it? The angels sang about it on Christmas. Jesus said it to the disciples on the day he rose from the dead. That’s called peace with God. Through Christ, we have peace with God. We have rest from all of our enemies. We have the tranquility of triumph. We have the confidence that God’s kingdom is our home. We have quiet rest and security for eternity.
Through Christ, we also have the quiet life of rest from sin as we live here on this earth. “How blessed you will be, sowing your seed by every stream, and letting your cattle and donkeys range free.” Do you hear that? …no fear…no excuses… no complaints…no self-reliance… We can have this kind of quiet life even in a world that is filled with noise, even with a sinful heart that cries out against us. It is all silenced by a God who loves us and took all the sounds of sin away from us. We get to live with his blessings, with the quiet trust that knows everything will be taken care of for us. We get to live with freedom from all the negative noise. We get to live with the words of worship on our lips. This is the life as a Christian in the world. God’s blessings of peace and security will not fail us.
Do you notice how God describes that his righteousness is as a fertile field? Yeah, right there in verse 16. He says that his righteousness produces fruit. Sounds like growth to me. That’s a great reminder as we conclude our summer growth series today. God doesn’t put you in this world to add to the noise. He puts you in the world to produce more peace and quietness. He puts you in this world to promote the security of his righteousness and the undisturbed place of eternal rest.
But if you have been in Josh Hader’s position before, where you just hear a bunch of noise, where it’s all your fault and you can’t turn it off, then I am so glad I get to tell you God’s promises of peace and rest. All the sins that blare in your ears have been silenced. And in their place, Jesus has put his righteousness. That’s the peace, the security, the confidence you have in Christ Jesus. That’s the peace, the security and confidence that is yours to share. That’s the peace and quietness that is always and eternally better than the noise. Amen.