A Lavish Feast for all Peoples

Sermon by Dan Iverson on Mar 6, 2016

Isaiah 25:6-9

Please turn in your Bibles to Isaiah, chapter 25; Isaiah chapter 25. Great missions text! It’s in your pew Bible, page 586. I love that hymn we just sang together, that last line - “Give of your sons to spread the message glorious, give of your wealth to speed them on their way. Pour out your soul, for them in prayer victorious, and all thou spendest Jesus shall repay.” I remember our first home assignment back from Japan and my mom and dad, we were in worship together, and we sang that hymn. And my mom was poking me on that last verse, “Give of your sons to spread the message glorious.” I remember it was hard for them to send us to Japan, and after the worship we were outside and she said, “Danny, when you were a little boy, I would sing that, ‘Give of your sons,’ and I meant it, ‘Lord, if you want him to go.’” And she looked at me with fire in her eyes and she said, “But I didn’t sing, ‘Give of your grandsons!’” And I told that at a missions conference some years later but I didn’t say that my mom had gone to heaven. And a guy came up to me afterwards and said, “Yeah, this missions thing is one thing - give your money and pour out your soul in prayer - but yeah, to give your sons and give your grandsons, what does your mom think about that now?” And I hadn’t mentioned she had gone to heaven and I told him with a twinkle in my eye, “She’s really for it now!”

And that relates to our text today because it’s a text about the true feast, the heavenly feast that in Matthew 8:11 Jesus refers to in the kingdom of heaven. Let’s hear this great text! Isaiah 25 verses 6 through 9. Let’s pray as we begin!

Lord, would You open up Your Word to us now by this weak vessel on jetlag, just flew in from Japan. I feel so weak and needy. And in such a brief time to open up this text that You, Holy Spirit, would speak to me and to us to show us this marvelous feast that is for all nations and our part, in taking that good news, that bread, to the ends of the earth. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Isaiah 25:6-9:

“On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine, of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined. And he will swallow up on this mountain the covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the LORD has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the LORD; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”

I was on the second floor of our house in Chiba, Japan, right outside Tokyo, and I heard this great big commotion downstairs. The kids were fighting and screaming and I ran downstairs, angry because I was interrupted from my work, and my son, Danny, he was fifteen years old - he’s now a church planter in Atlanta - had my daughter, Sarah Beth, who was eight who is now in Bangladesh with her five grandchildren, and Danny had Sarah Beth and was trying to put her head in the toilet! And what do you call that? A swirly! And I just lost it and I must have learned this from James Dobson on how to parent in difficult situations - I grabbed Danny and tried to put his head in the toilet! I used to be a marine, you know, and I was trying, and he’s fifteen, getting bigger, and my marine muscle went from here to here over the years you know! And he was, “Dad, I was only kidding! Dad, it was only her hair, just a little bit!” And my sin became much worse than his, if his was a sin - I think it was; he was provoking his sister. “The water’s clean, Dad!” At the worst time, I’m trying to do this, and Danny’s not fighting me but he has his hands on the side of the toilet, “Dad, dad, we were just kidding dad!” You guys should really have better, more holy missions conference speakers to come to your church!

And at the absolute worst time, this tension-filled house, the doorbell rang. I put Danny down, went to the door, as I was sliding the door I put my pastor’s plastic smile on, you know, and went to the genkan where you take your shoes off to come in, and there was a lady from our church bringing something. And I was just so nice to her. “Oh, doozo ohairi kudasai, please come in!” I only said it once because I knew a Japanese person wouldn’t come in unless you invite them three times, you know, looking at your eyes, do you really mean it. And she thankfully left! And I turned around and there are six of my children looking at their dad and it was as if they had written across their foreheads, gizen-sha, which means, hypocrite! And you know, “Dad, you were so angry and you were so sweet to that lady seconds later!” And the Holy Spirit worked in my heart and brought repentance in the heart of this missionary who lost his temper. Think about it, the PCA sent us to bring the love and peace of Jesus to the people of Chiba. We came to bring the message of the cross and forgiveness and we come to Christ by repentance and we had a “gospel” moment with our kids as I confessed my sin to them and to God and we prayed. And that’s the message that we always need, even as we look at the Word here today, I share that with you so you remember that your missionaries you pray for around the world are sinners like you, who need Christ and who need to live a life of ongoing repentance like Luther’s first theses of the ninety-five theses on the door. The Christian life is a life of ongoing repentance. And for all of us, we need to do that today. And a little later I’ll share a third reason why I shared that story.

But as we come to this text we see, as we want to see, “Lord, what are you teaching me? What do I need to repent of?” as we think about “Give of your sons and spread the message glorious. Give of your wealth to speed them on their way. Pour out your soul, in prayer for them victorious, and all that thou spendest, Jesus will repay.” “On this mountain,” verse 6; look at it; “On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food.” There’s this lavish feast; the true bread that we know from John 6 is Jesus. And this feast, who’s it for? Jackson, Mississippi! Yes, and all peoples of the earth; peoples, verse 6. All nations, all peoples, the veil that’s over their faces, in verse 7. And the third thing we see, this is a God-centered text - that God will accomplish these things and by implication He invites us to participate in this, the feast, the true feast.

A mother pulled up in her beautiful Mercedes-Benz to our church in Japan just outside Tokyo and she dragged her seventeen year old son up to my office and she came in and I’d never met her before and her son looked like a scared animal. He wouldn’t look up; seventeen year old boy. She told me his story. She said, “I’ve taken him to the Buddhist priest, I’ve taken him to the Shinto priest. He was a perfectly normal young man. Five years old we sent him to the best kindergarten, the best elementary schools. We spent so much money on his education.” She was an education mama - kyoiku mama we call them in Japan. And then she said, “And then in junior high school we sent him all the way into Tokyo into the city center to the best school in Japan and he was always number one in his class. Number one! We gave him everything and then the first year of high school, number one, second year of high school, number two, and this year he just shut down emotionally and he won’t even come out of his room.” This was my first heke comodi kid - have you heard that word? It’s only Japan in the whole world that has this. More than a million young children, especially from seventh grade on, who just shut down emotionally. She said, “I had to drag him here today. He never comes out of his room. We’ve given him everything,” she said. “I don’t know what’s wrong, and so I brought him to you.” And it became real obvious to me what was wrong. It was the mother! Do you think that mother loved her son? I do, but she had bought into the false bread, the not-true lavish feast of Japan incorporated, in many ways that they had learned from the United States of America, that all of these other things - the best education and getting into the best college and getting a good job - that these things, these things are the lavish feast.

How’s that working for you? It’s not working well for Japan at all. The tsunami killed 20,000 people and in the same year, suicide killed 30,000 people. I know that we have that in the United States and there’s the pain and the struggles of that, but in our country it’s an epidemic and people like this young boy, perfectly normal and healthy, being brutalized in a sense by a culture that says your identity is in what you perform, what you do; no understanding of the true and living God who made you, no understanding of the love of Christ. This mother and this son had never heard anything before in their lives about the true feast of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the true feast! Jesus told us in John 6, He said, “Don’t work for the food that perishes.” And the disciples say, “Ok, Lord, give us this bread, the enduring bread.” And Jesus says, “I am the bread.” The country I live in is a country pursuing false bread but this country too, right? This is the problem of all of us around the world. We see this text points us to the true feast of heaven. We think of Matthew 8:11 where Jesus, I believe, was thinking of this passage. “I say to you that many will come from the east and the west and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.” This feast is the feast for our souls now as well as for heaven. Looking forward to heaven and the feast, it affects today - how we live, what we give our lives for, what our true identity is.

  1. A Lavish Feast

It says it’s a lavish feast, verse 6; “rich food,” it says two times. It calls it a “feast” two times. “Good wine” two times. Verse 7 says this covering that was over this mother who had no clue about the Gospel or the covering over the people in American thinking a bigger house - you know the idols are different here, right, but idols nonetheless - thinking these things will satisfy, these things will make me happy. They’re like Turkish delight. The more Edmund ate of the Turkish delight - “How’s that working for you Edmund?” As C.S. Lewis so helps us to see in the Narnia story, that it doesn’t satisfy. It’s for me too! Why did I lose my temper with my children that day? My false bread - we’re in Japan, all these years, there’s so little fruit, it’s so hard at the beginning. Four years no fruit; no fruit. Zero! Four years, virtually that we could see. And my idols, my false bread very much success, back in the Marine Corps but then as a missionary wanting to see, for right reasons but then mixed with wrong reasons, there are churches to grow, churches to be started, churches to multiply. Jesus tells us that He is the true bread we see in Isaiah 55. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters. He who has no money, come, buy, and eat!”

  1. For All Nations

This is the invitation to us today to come to the true feast, to come to the true wine, the lavish feast that is, second point, for all nations. It’s a missions conference. We need to eat of this feast. We need this feast to consume us. This is the feast that matters and we care to give it out to Mississippi and to the whole world. You see in verse 6 it says this is a lavish feast “for all peoples,” for all nations. Verse 7, the covering, the veil that is over all peoples, all nations. My wife and I moved here to Jackson, Mississippi thirty-three years ago from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. My story is mercenary to missionary. I was a hard-charging recon captain, if you know what that is. I never thought I was going to go to seminary. My father was a PCA minister, my grandfather preached in your church around 1970, wrote the hymn you’re going to sing at the end. By the way, y’all don’t have it right. It’s “break me, melt me, mold me, fill me.” He had charged us before he died, “Make them sing it right!” So, whatever! It’s right in the Trinity Hymnal anyway! I don’t know what your choir director’s going to do with that, but anyway! My grandfather preached here. I was from a blueblood Presbyterian family and we came to seminary here to go back to Maryland to start a daughter church. It had not crossed my mind to for one second if you told me my first friend was going to be Hironadi from Japan and when he said, “Please, dansan, come to Japan and help us plant church.” Ha, ha, ha! I’m not going to Japan. He said, “Well could we pray in our prayer group at RTS for my country, Japan, where so few people know Christ?” “Oh yeah, we’ll pray for your country.” That didn’t seem dangerous to me, ha ha! But at the very beginning at RTS if you had told me that my Bible here, the left side would be English and the right side of every page would be Japanese and that we’d be in Japan almost thirty years, you know, I would say, “You’re crazy! What are you smoking? There’s no way!”

But very early on we had a missions conference and for three days the preacher marched us from Genesis to Revelation showing the centrality of all peoples. I was a missing “s” Christian! You notice that it’s peoples, all peoples - every tongue, every tribe. From Genesis, like he used so many passages, but Genesis 22:18, “all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring.” Psalm 67, “Let the peoples” - I was a missing “s” Christian, like I said, before coming to RTS. I thought I was a balanced, Biblical Christian, but I wasn’t. We taught our kids the catechism, read the Bible every day, I sang the hymns - “All hail the power of Jesus’ name” and I sang that last verse ten thousand times I’ll bet, “Let every kindred, every tribe, on this terrestrial ball, to him all majesty ascribe and crown him Lord of all!” I never thought, “This is a mission hymn. This is what we care about, that the nations should worship.” “Let the peoples praise you, O God! Let all the peoples praise you!” Psalm 67. Psalm 117:1, “Praise the Lord all nations; laud him all peoples.” We long that God would be worshiped in every tongue and tribe like we’re doing here today. We realize there’s all these places in the world God’s not being worshiped at all; people don’t have a clue about Him. Isaiah 12:4-5, “Make known his deeds among the peoples. Let this be known in all the earth.” And on through to Revelation.

And my wife and I, sitting there for three days, ten hours maybe, looked at each other and said, “How did we miss this? How did we miss this? I’ve been reading my Bible my whole life, my dad’s a PCA pastor, my grandfather wrote the hymn we’re going to sing at the end! How did we miss this? Personally, this is going to have to affect how we raise our kids, that they would have a heart like the heart of God for every tongue and tribe, for the places that don’t have this true bread, this true feast yet. If we do go back to Maryland, that church we’re going to start has to be a church that cares what God cares about. So many places without this lavish feast.” I heard this story of Hudson Taylor going down a river in China and he saw one city after another. You know, Hudson Taylor, famous missionary to China was a very passionate man. And he tells how his heart ached as he saw city after city, knowing there were millions and millions of people, city after city as he goes down that river, not one Christian in any of these cities! And his heart ached for God’s glory, yes, and for the lost people. I remember riding a train from southwest Japan where I flew down and then took the train back because I wanted to see that part of the country. Going through, I thought of that story, but I wasn’t on a boat; I was on a bullet train passing city after city of, you know, Japs in Mississippi, 172,000 people, cities you’ve never heard of, of a million and of 700,000 you know, and knowing so few Christians, so few churches.

The PCA sent us to a city outside Tokyo. You can remember the name of it, Oyume no. You know how you can remember that name? Answer this question, “Who will build this church?” Oyume no! Got it? Ok? Yes, only Jesus will build this church. Seventy thousand people in the history of the world - God had never been worshiped as far as we know. The first church in the history of the world for 70,000 people; a third the size of Jackson and no church. We’re starting a church with City to City Redeemer New York City in Tokyo City Center; Toyosu is the name of the park where the Olympics are going to be. When you see the Olympics in a few years, this is where we’re starting a church. There’s 120,000 people there; Tokyo City Center, Tokyo and there’s no church! Well there is now, since last April; started Easter worship. Isn’t that exciting? Now God is being worshiped in this place. This is what we’re about - we care that the nations would worship, that we take this true bread to the nations.

You know, our PCA, I know of a church that had 200 applications to be their associate pastor; 200 applications for one position in the PCA. And I say we have 200 cities and no applications. Two hundred cities - and that’s kind of an exaggeration; we do have several applications but it’s not an exaggeration. We have more than 200 cities that need a church! How is God calling you to give of your sons and your grandsons and your granddaughters? Or to go? Bob and Sharon Drews came to visit us, retired Navy commander, and as he came to Japan he said, “Hey, God could use a PCA elder in many churches, godly husband and wife.” And they came for ten days, came back for three years, not they’re back semi-career. They keep extending! Being the mentors for our City Center Tokyo church plant. Or the other end of the spectrum - this year, Bret, Laura, and Katie from Virginia and North Carolina doing a gap year, helping us in Japan for eleven months, helping us do this Christian school - the only Christian school for 7 million people in east Tokyo. You think churches are so few? No other Christian school! That’s twice the population of Mississippi - 7 million people and there’s no other Christian school, which kind of reflects how needy our country and so many places in the world. What’s God calling you to do?

And to give - we’re the riches country in the world by far and the richest church in the world may be the PCA and you, First Presbyterian Church, among the richest of the richest of the richest - yes, per capita? Yes! And here we say, “Lord, here I am.” We eat of the feast and we say, “Lord, what would You have me to do in being a part of giving this feast to the nations?”

  1. God Will Accomplish This

And last, third thing we see from this text is that God will accomplish this. This is a God-centered passage; He does it and we get to partner with Him. The outcome is absolutely certain! The whole passage bleeds God-centeredness. He does it! Verse 6, He provides the feast, the most expensive meal we ever eat, and it’s free like Isaiah 55 that I read. You know, the feast - “Come, you with no money. Come, buy, and eat!” Jesus paid for this feast and it’s provided by Him. God provided His Son. We think of the cross of Christ and what He did in our place. Verse 7, He takes away the covering, the veil. I think of how many people in our church in Japan were like that mother who brought her son that day and the veil of verse 7 was so thick they just couldn’t see. And slowly coming to see their sin and coming to see there is one true and living God and coming to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He’s the one who does that! Verse 8, He swallows up death; He wipes away tears. What an era we live in! We’re seeing God do this all around the world like we’ve never seen in the history of the church. The last fifty years, friends, way more kingdom advancement than in the first 1900 years. Really! I remember forty years ago we know nothing about what was going on in China. Today if Hudson Taylor went down that river in China, there are tens of thousands of Christians and churches growing. A young guy at RTS told me, he said, “Beijing, you know, the police can’t find to shut down the churches. They’ve almost giving up the churches are growing so fast.” But that’s not happening in India. My son’s in India. Went to visit. Preached in their church. So exciting to see - fourteen different people groups of elite, highly educated Indians in Bangalore and seeing the way the kingdom is growing and spreading.

Last week I was in Malaysia with church planters from all over Asia for a City to City Conference and seeing what God is doing. On the plane from Penang, Malaysia to Hong Kong to Japan to get here Friday night in time to be here with you this morning. I really fought hard and worked hard to get here friends! I’m tired! But on the plane there’s a Chinese pastor that sat next to me named, Daniel! My name! You know, we see God doing this all around the world, this kingdom advancement. The feast is going forth all around the world. I haven’t seen this kind of thing happen in Japan yet. Do you think we can believe the promises for Japan? How about for the Muslim world and hard places like that? “His kingdom cannot fail! He rules over earth and heaven.” Yes, we can! Verse 3, we didn’t read it, but if you look back in your Bible verse 3 says, “The ruthless cities, the ruthless nations will come.” I remember on the news since ISIS - can we pray for ISIS, that ISIS and ISIS Muslims would come to Christ? Can we pray it? Yes! With faith that every tongue, every tribe, God’s elect are in every group. Japan was a ruthless nation when we think about what Japan did to Asia and brutalizing Asia and using babies for bayonet practice. A Singapore, Chinese elder told me the story - and my Japanese friend with me almost cried as he told the story of how his father said that the Japanese took over Singapore, they lined up all the men, made them hold their hands out, and they checked all the men with smooth hands. They took them away and they never returned because they figured they were the leaders. And they killed them all! Whereas the men with rough hands they let live. And hearing this story, this is what my country did seventy years ago. I’ll tell tonight about the lead attacker in the Pearl Harbor who lead the three hundred planes that invaded Pearl Harbor - Fuchida, Commander Fuchida, a ruthless man. He prayed that day to his gods on his aircraft carrier that the ships would be in the harbor and that they would kill many Americans. Ruthless nations and men will come, after the war, I’ll tell the story tonight, Fuchida became a Christian, became a pastor! This ruthless man became a lover of Jesus and one who wanted to tell the good news. Strong nations will come, ruthless nation will come.

Genesis 22:16, God swears by His own name that this will happen. And some of you say, “But Dan, it doesn’t feel like it’s happening!” It doesn’t, right? You ever think that while I’m saying this? Look at those Supreme Court decisions! Look at this election! You know? But friends, it’s like my uncle I’m named after - World War II, Battle of Midway. He was in the Battle of Midway flying, his plane landed back at Midway Island, he won the Navy Cross in that battle, second highest medal a Marine could win, more than two hundred bullet holes in his plane, one wheel, and he didn’t think they were winning but they were. And it was the turning point of the war. See, that’s what it’s like for us. We take the long view. We see, we read our church history, we read the Bible, we see the kingdom advancement around the world, we know that this feast is going to every tongue and tribe. His kingdom cannot fail! He rules over earth and heaven!

And God calls us today - I’ll finish with this story; We eat the feast, we eat it, we raise our children to know this is the only thing that matters, the feast, the true feast, the bread! Not that other stuff - it’s junk food! What’s your junk food? And then we say, “Lord, how do you want me to be a part of taking it to the nations?” PCA pastor friend of mine, his son-in-law came to him, he was going to be the son-in-law, he asked permission to marry his daughter. He said, “But you take care of my daughter or you and I will have problems.” I’ve given away two daughters; I know about that. And a couple of years later the son-in-law came to him and said, “Dad, God is leading, we believe, us to go to City Center Orlando, the worst part of Orlando. The crime is bad, it’s very poor. We believe He’s leading us there to start a church and be involved in ministry there. You know your grandchildren are going to be raised in a bad place. You know you told me I’d better take care of your daughter or you are going to have a problem with me. Are you and I ok?” And my friend, of course, I mean have six grandchildren in a bad part of Atlanta and five grandchildren in Bangladesh. Please pray for them! It’s really dangerous! And five in India. And this is hard and it’s difficult but I learned from what my pastor friend said. He thought about it for a second. “What is the true food? What really matters in this world?” And his answer was a great answer that informs our going, our giving, our praying, and what matters. He said to his son-in-law, “If you don’t go where God is leading you, I’ll have a problem with you.” Isn’t that great? Let’s pray!

Lord, we do want to God. Lord, we want to eat the feast, drink the true wine, and we want to go where You’re leading us - with our wallets, with our children and us ourselves. O Lord, may we eat and drink deeply. Forgive us for our sins. Thank You that Jesus died for sinners. Today we repent again and turn to You and ask You to lead us to the ends of the earth for the sake of Your glory by our prayers, by our giving, and by our going. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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