He Only Has Eyes for You!
A sermon based on Isaiah 43:1-7
Sunday, February 21, 2016 – Lent 2C
It was written in 1934 but was made popular in 1959 by group called the Flamingos. It's been rerecorded by Art Garfunkel, Frank Sinatra, and Carly Simon. And it seems like the song has only grown in popularity: "I Only have Eyes for You!" is a love song written to tell of a man's undying devotion to his love…
"Are the stars out tonight? I don't know if it's cloudy or bright 'Cause I only have eyes for you, dear. The moon may be high But I can't see a thing in the sky 'Cause I only have eyes for you. I don't know if we're in a garden Or on a crowded avenue. You are here, so am I Maybe millions of people go by But they all disappear from view And I only have eyes for you."
Awwww! Pretty romantic, huh? You could do worse, guys, than to be able to tell your sweetheart that when she's around, nothing else matters, no one else matters, because you only have eyes for her!
Well, today as sappy as it may seem, God pulls you to his side, looks into your eyes and tells you, "I only have eyes for you." And if it's a wonderful thing to have your sweetheart say those things to you, it's eternally better to have your God tell you that and show that love to you. Today as our "Singing with the Exiles" series continues, we'll celebrate that God says to us as he said to those exiles, "I only have eyes for you." Our text is from Isaiah 43:1-7…
But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, 'Give them up!' and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.' Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."
In verse 4 where the NIV reads, "Since you are precious and honored in my sight," the Hebrew is literally, "you are precious and honored in my eyes." And it's sort of interesting that God tells us about his eyes in Isaiah 43, because in the previous chapter he was talking about the eyes of his people. And he didn't mince words or pull any punches. This is what he said…
"Look, you blind, and see! Who is blind but my servant… the messenger I send? Who is blind like the one committed to me, blind like the servant of the Lord? You have seen many things, but have paid no attention…"
The eyes of Israel were closed. They refused to look to him and dismissed the blessings of the past and ignored God's promises for future. They rejected the Lord and served their own sinful appetites. And when thing went south as a result they looked to any hero they could find except the Lord. It was as if they put blinders on themselves. They were blind to the Lord, to his commands, and to his love. And so he would bring punishment. He would send the Babylonians to attack and lead them into captivity. Isaiah goes on…
"Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned? For they would not follow his ways; they did not obey his law. So he poured out on them his burning anger, the violence of war. It enveloped them in flames, yet they did not understand; it consumed them, but they did not take it to heart."
God had given Israel plenty to see—the miraculous displays of power in the presence of their captor Pharaoh, on the banks of the Red Sea, and at the top of Mount Carmel. There's lots of evidence that was apparent for all to see to accuse the Israelites of choosing to be foolishly blind to the Lord. Were we on the jury, we'd convict them for sure!
But what if you sat on the jury that presides over your own life? Hasn't God given you enough to see? Are you blind too? You might want to object, but the evidence is too overwhelming!! We've seen the promises of God in his Word time and time again. We've got an entire book of his promises that sits on our nightstands often without receiving a glance. Too often we choose to be too blind to open its pages and see its truth because we might not like the changes it calls for. We have so many opportunities to see the comfort our Lord would bring us from the pulpit and in Bible class, but we chose not to attend or ignore the words before us and don't see what he has done. It's like getting a love letter from your sweetheart and tossing it aside unread. How we must break God's heart!
If we are honest with ourselves, we're forced to admit that we, too, choose to be blind to our God. If we are real with ourselves, we have to understand that the exile that God brought down on Israel should be our future, too. We, too, should be removed from our homes and from our lives of comfort and experience the burning anger of God. For being blind to him, we deserve the flames of hell.
But… "But…" says Isaiah as the first word of chapter 43. Though God poured out on them his burning anger… "But now, this is what the Lord says…" We are blind, but… God sees. He sees, and in spite of what he sees, he loves. He only has eyes for you. Though we don't always put a high value on God, he put the highest value on us.
But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
Often times, the value of something is based on ownership. You can buy a pair of basketball shoes for about $50. If you want a nice pair of Nike Air Jordan's the price jumps up to about $150. But if you want a pair of shoes that Michael Jordan himself owned and wore on the court, the price skyrockets. A pair of shoes that Michel Jordan wore in the NBA finals in 1997 was auctioned off a few years ago for $104,765. Value is often based on ownership.
And for us, that's good news since God tells us that we are his. Because he made us and called us and redeemed us, we are his. He says in 1 Corinthians 6(:19-20), "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God… You are not your own; you were bought at a price." And you know what that price was! He says in 1 Peter 1(:18-19), "For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed… but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect."
You see, another aspect of ownership is how much someone is willing to pay for something, right? The value of your home is kind of a meaningless number unless someone wants to pay for it, right? When Becky and I moved here, our home in Raleigh didn't sell for months. That's when we learned first-hand that it's not that important how much the home is worth according to the appraisal if no one will buy! That number won't put food on the table. What will, is a check in your hand. What matters is what others are willing to pay. Real value is shown when someone is willing to cut the check.
And you know that God was willing to cut the check to save his people. They were his chosen people and he was going to keep the promises he'd made to them. They would be restored. They would return to Jerusalem. And he would pay the price. God would "bring (his) sons from afar and (his) daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name." And the price to set them free… would be human lives: "Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give men in exchange for you, and people in exchange for your life."
God would topple an empire to put his servant, Cyrus, in power, so that the people would be returned. God traded the lives of the pagan Babylonians for the lives of his faithful people, the remnant, those who were his. He gave men—human lives—in exchange for Israel.
And he does it for you and me as well. In many ways he trades lives for us to bless us and protect us. Just think of the battles fought, the blood shed, the lives given so that we can enjoy the freedoms and prosperity that we do today! But, of course, none of those cost nearly as much as what he paid for your forgiveness—to bring you back to him.
For that, God exchanged the life of Jesus for yours. He valued you so much, he had his eyes fixed so much on you that he was willing to take his eyes off of Jesus. He wanted you to be in his family so badly that he was willing to sacrifice his only Son—his perfect Son—that we might be called his sons and daughters, that we might be gathered from the places we've been scattered to be a part of his family. "Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth…"
And this was no prisoner exchange where it's dictated by the superiors and the parties involved have no say. Jesus was a willing participant. His love for you was so great, he only had eyes for you, that he set his eyes on the path that would win you peace. He kept his eyes free from greed or lust. He kept his eyes fixed on God's commands. And he lived a perfect life in your place.
Jesus' love for you was so great, he only had eyes for you, that he was willing to surrender to the flames of God's wrath, willing to unfairly carry the burdens of ours sins. Though we were blind to him, he fixed his eyes on the cross, and willingly endured the punishment and pain, that he might give us his peace.
And it wasn't just his eyes he gave. He gave his back to be ripped apart instead of ours. He gave his hands and his feet nailed to the cross instead of us. He gave his head to have a thorn of crowns beat into it that we might get a crown of life. He gave his blood, "the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect," to redeem us. He gave his soul as he endured hell on the cross so that we will never have to. He gave his life for us that we might live.
Make no mistake: He only has eyes for you! So now we're his beloved. He only has eyes for us. And that gives us immense value. That's all that matters. It doesn't matter what others see. It doesn't even matter what we see. What matters is what God sees. And he says, "You are precious and honored in my [eyes]… I love you…" And that gives us values!
When you look in the mirror, do you sometimes see a loser? Do you see a kid that's scared that everyone else will see through the act? Do you see a grownup who's afraid that others will see through the veneer? Do you see a worthless sinner, a rebel, one who deserves to be damned? That's not what he sees. He sees perfect, sinless saints. He sees, "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to [him]."(1 Peter 2:9)
And what's more, now that he's risen and ascended into heaven, he keeps his eyes on you! He keeps on loving you, protecting you, and providing for you. He promises that his love will never leave you nor will he ever leave you as he promises, "Surely I will be with you always to the very end of the age." (Matthew 28:19) And because he is with you, the promise that he makes through Isaiah will certainly come true in your life:
"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior."
He's the Holy One of Israel and your Holy One, too. He's the defender of Israel and your Shield and Fortress. You have value in his eyes and salvation in his blood! You have peace here on earth and everlasting, unending incomparable joy in heaven when you finally cash in the reward that's through him. Because he values you, he gives you the most valuable thing—a place with him forever. When life is hard, when troubles arise, when trials mount, don't ever forget your Savior. And don't ever forget his promises. He loves you. You're his. He only has eyes for you. In his name, dear friends, amen.