There was a man whose birthday fell in the middle of December. For most of his life his brother had given him just one present to cover both birthday and Christmas, and he always saved that combined present to open it on Christmas Day. But last year most unusually the brother gave the man a present specifically for his birthday. With great excitement he tore open the wrapping paper to find a box. He opened the box and inside he found two things. The first was a single slipper for a left foot. The second thing was a simple card. “Happy Birthday. Guess what you’re getting for Christmas!”
That little story is actually the perfect parable for this morning’s message, which I have entitled, “The best is yet to come.” You may know that phrase particularly from the song.
Out of the tree of life I just picked me a plum
You came along and everything started to hum
Still it’s a real good bet the best is yet to come
The best is yet to come and, babe, won’t it be fine?
You think you’ve seen the sun but you ain’t seen it shine
We usually associate Frank Sinatra with the song “My way”. In fact the epitaph on Frank Sinatra’s tombstone is those words, “The best is yet to come”. A fitting epitaph, and a most fitting message in this season of advent.
Advent comes from the Latin meaning “coming” or “arrival” which was itself a translation of the Greek parousia which also means coming but is actually much more often used to refer to Christ’s second coming! The season of advent not only prepares us to celebrate as we look back at the events of Christ’s first coming, the Nativity. This season of advent also looks forward to the return of Christ in glory.
Because the Christmas story is actually only half the story, the first instalment, the left slipper sitting all by itself in the box. We have yet to see the fulfilment of God’s cosmic master-plan to redeem the whole of Creation. And the best is definitely yet to come!
The people of Israel had been waiting for centuries. Waiting for the day when God’s salvation would come. Looking forward to the day when God would act as King, punish those who were not His chosen People and establish His Kingdom in the world. The prophets had pointed the way forward. The Word of God the Old Testament was brimming over with promises of God’s salvation, promises of all the blessings God has in store for his people. The prophets spoke from God so many times about this promised salvation and so for centuries the people of Israel had been waiting the person who would bring in that God’s wonderful salvation – The Messiah.
The prophet Isaiah tells us a lot about who this Saviour will be.
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Wonderful counsellor – a figure of wisdom
Mighty God – a figure of strength and power
Everlasting Father – a figure of Creation
Prince of Peace – a figure bringing Salvation
Isaiah 11:1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD- 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
So the Messiah will be a descendent of Jesse, who was the father of Great King David. The Messiah will be a human king even greater than David. Because He will be empowered by the Holy Spirit who will rest on Him, the Spirit who gives understanding and wisdom and power and knowledge. The Holy Spirit who fills people with reverence and awe for the Almighty and Holy God.
The Holy Spirit will empower this mighty deliverer. This is the Messiah foretold by Isaiah. And Isaiah also looks forward to the kind of the salvation the Messiah will bring
Isaiah 61:1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion- to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.
Good news for the poor
Bind up the broken hearted
Freedom for the captives
Release from darkness for the prisoners
The year of the Lord’s favour
Comfort for all who mourn and grieve – gladness and praise instead of mourning and despair.
Isaiah 9: 7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and for ever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.
A kingly rule characterised by justice and righteousness and peace.
Isaiah 11 3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
5 Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash round his waist.
Kingdom will be the perfect expression of God’s shalom, God’s peace. The Hebrew word “shalom” means much more than the absence of conflict and war. Shalom means wholeness and harmony and that is what the Messiah will bring to the earth.
6 The wolf will live with the lamb,
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them.
7 The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together,
and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
8 The infant will play near the cobra’s den,
and the young child will put its hand into the viper’s nest.
This is what the world will be like when the Messiah is in charge. Taking things back to the perfection of Creation and the way things used to be like in the Garden of Eden before Adam and Eve spoiled everything by rebelling against God. The barrier of sin which separates human beings from God the Creator will be dealt with. Relationships will be restored and there will be complete harmony again.
9 They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the LORD
as the waters cover the sea.
This was the Messiah the people of Israel had been expecting and this was the wonderful salvation he would bring to the world. And indeed Jesus did begin this reign of righteousness and justice – but He did not bring it to completion. Jesus brought the first instalment of God’s wonderful peace – but not the fulness of the harmony and wholeness which was promised. So far there are many glorious promises which have only been partially fulfilled. God has started but he hasn’t finished yet! The best is yet to come
In His birth and his incarnation and his earthly ministry Jesus began to fulfil so many of these Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah and the End Times, the Day of the Lord, and the Year of the Lord. He began to fulfil those promises, but many of them await their ultimate fulfilment when Jesus will return again in glory with the Holy angels, on that day when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. While we wait for that day, we have only experienced a foretaste of God’s blessings – the best is yet to come!
This was the message Jesus brought. The kingdom of God is here. But not actually, “the Kingdom of God has completely arrived.” That would have been a different word. What Jesus preached time and again was “The kingdom of God has come near you.” “The kingdom of God has touched you.” “The kingdom of God has brushed up against you.” The kingly rule of God has begun. But it did not fully arrive in Jesus’s lifetime or even in his glorious resurrection. The best is yet to come.
So for this morning, let me just share with you some more of God’s wonderful promises, especially from the prophet Isaiah, which have begun to be fulfilled in Christ’s first coming, but which will only be fully expressed at the Second coming. Let us look forward with anticipation!
God promises SALVATION – that’s just an umbrella word which embraces all the wonderful blessings of his grace which God gives so freely to his people.
Isa 45:17 But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting.
God’s wonderful salvation has begun – but it has yet to be completed. As far as SALVATION is concerned, the best is yet to come.
One aspect of salvation is RESCUE
40:10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him. 11 He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young.
35:3 Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; 4 say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance; with divine retribution he will come to save you.”
That experience of rescue which God promised to his people Israel is now for all people everywhere who will humble themselves and accept God’s grace. RESCUE The best is yet to come.
Isaiah 11:3 He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth; with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Our world is still spoiled by injustice. The return of Jesus will bring an end to all forms of injustice. The best is yet to come.
CLEANSING and FORGIVENESS
55:6 ¶ Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. 7 Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
One day we will be completely pure and holy – but none of us have arrived there yet! We all need CLEANSING and FORGIVENESS The best is yet to come!
40:3 ¶ A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.
60:19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the LORD will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end.
What a wonderful day that will be – when we will see God face to face! Many Christians look forward to the Second Coming because it will mean the end of the troubles and problems of this world. But the better reason we look forward to Christ’s return is that we will be with him forever. Jesus promised,
John 14 3 … if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
GOD’S PRESENCE The best is yet to come!
There will be PEACE – as we saw prophesied in Isaiah chapters 9 and 11.
Perfect harmony. No more harm – no more destruction. In this life we only experience a foretaste of the wonderful peace which life in God’s presence will bring to each one of us.
55:2 Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labour on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.
25:6 ¶ On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine- the best of meats and the finest of wines. 7 On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; 8 he will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth.
The promise of the Banquet of the Messiah, the Marriage Feast of the lamb. Overflowing blessings. Earthly kingdoms rise and fall but God’s eternal kingdom will stand forever! OVERFLOWING BLESSINGS The best is yet to come!
35:10 and the ransomed of the LORD will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.
55:12 You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.
25:9 ¶ In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
The joy which we experience in this life is just a foretaste, a glimpse of the joys which await us when Christ returns. Salvation, rescue, justice, cleansing, forgiveness, God’s presence, peace, safety, healing, overflowing blessings, joy. So here are God’s glorious promises. We are already experiencing the first instalment of these blessings – the foretaste, the appetisers. Until Christ returns again we simply wait with anticipation. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad! The best is definitely yet to come!