25 To whom then will you compare me,
that I should be like him? Says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high and see:
who created these?
He who brings out their host by number,
calling them all by name,
by the greatness of his might,
and because he is strong in power
not one is missing.
In the name of + Jesus.
I lived most of my life without ever having seen a shooting star. My sisters, friends, and it seemed like everybody else saw them all the time, but not me. We would be sitting in the parking lot after a baseball game, or talking on the back steps of a college dormitory late at night, or enjoying the darkening skies before fireworks on the 4th of July, and all of a sudden, a finger would be pointed, and some exclamation would be uttered: “Wow!” “Did you see that?” But I had never seen a single one.
Sometimes, the Christian Church is kind of like that. Isaiah tells us that our triune God is without comparison (v. 25); that there is none like him. And to illustrate that fact, the prophet asks us to lift our eyes on high and see the stars of the sky. “Who created these,” the prophet asks. In other words: Do you see all of them? Remember who made them? And then, he adds these wonderful words: “He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.” In other words: remember my promise to Abraham? When I promised that my people would be as numerous as the stars of the sky? In the same way that stars are discovered, and named, and now number in the multitudes, God’s people are called by the Gospel, named in Baptism, and are more numerous than the stars in the sky! “Not one is missing”!!
And we say, “Really? Not one is missing? But look at all these empty seats!” We see the events taking place around us and we ask, “Where are all the stars? Why does the sky look so empty? Why does the Church look so small?” And the prophet simply reiterates the promise: Really. Not one. Not a single one is missing.
You see, the Christian Church remains somewhat hidden to our eyes. As we live in a broken world, plagued by sin, death, and the devil, we look to see star; we look to see righteousness and purity carried out lives lived in service to the Lord; we look to see life. But our failures and our faults; our inability to love our neighbors as we would like to be loved; our missing loved ones; and those who have yet to be brought to repentance and faith cause us to wonder how in the world these promises could be true.
You see, stars can be seen, but shooting stars sometimes remain hidden. And so, the prophet uses what can be seen as a reminder that what remains hidden really does exist. Sin, death, and the devil seem to be so large and intimidating-we can definitely see them. But the Church, and her people’s desire for God’s Word and holiness of life seems to be so small and insignificant. But that’s only because you can’t see it all!
What you can’t see, and what remains hidden from your eyes, is that the truth Church of God exists of ALL who have lived and died with faith in Christ. The one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church is that Communion of Saints which numbers in the multitude and is impossible to count. This is the true Church, and it really does exist—the gates of hell will not overcome it (Matt. 16:18). But as of yet, most of it remains hidden from our eyes, and therefore, it requires that we live by faith.
Faith that the words of the Prophet are the Word of God; faith that God’s promise through the prophet is true—even if the Church’s numbers look so small; faith that one day, we will all see the stars, and the numbers of our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith will be revealed in their multitudes; faith that all of this is true, and can be trusted, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
To this day, I’ve only seen a handful of shooting stars, but I know that they exist. And because of God’s promise through the prophet, we know, that even if we haven’t seen the Church in all her glory—and even though we may not look like much today—we know, for certain, our LORD will not lose one of His own. And on the Last Day—we will see that indeed, there were more of them than we ever could have imagined!
Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Lord of the Church, by Your Holy Spirit you gather the elect from every tribe and nation through the preaching of the Gospel. Give us faith to trust Your promises, and to see the Church as the entire number of saints who have lived and died with faith in your promises in Christ; that acknowledging the Communion of Saints in the one true faith, we might be encouraged to fight the good fight, even to the end; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.