Funeral Sermon – John Hilton – "Thou Wilt Keep Him In Perfect Peace" – Isaiah 26:3 – 5/14/15

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“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3).

Karen says that over the last several years, this had become John’s favorite scripture verse. It was his ‘theme’ verse if you will; one, concise verse described the goal of his life, and hopefully, after he was gone, the summary of his life.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3). Not a bad goal and theme for one’s life.

Everyone has a ‘theme verse’ for their life, whether they realize it or not, whether we can recite it or not. All of us have a ‘favorite verse’ that describes the goal that we have for our life, and that the thing that, after we die, we hope that others will say, ‘that pretty well sums up who he was.’

‘Theme verses’ don’t always come from the holy scriptures. They come from a wide range of sources.

“Whoever dies with the most toys wins” is a pretty common one that describes a lot of people. “My only desire in life is to be happy,” is another. That one has lots of variations. Substitute “My only desire is to be wealthy” or “successful” or “comfortable” or “loved.” That’s the theme of their life and looking back, everyone concludes, ‘Yup, that describes him to a tee.’

There are a couple of fairly popular variations on John’s theme verse too.
• “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on being a good person, because he trusteth in his goodness.” That’s a very common one.
• “Thou wilt keep him in perfect health, who mind is stayed on praying hard enough and long enough, because he trusteth in his prayers.”
• “Thou wilt keep him in perfect children whose mind is stayed on following all the right steps for raising perfect children.”

Everyone’s got a ‘theme verse.’ What’s yours?

John’s was “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” (Isaiah 26:3).

That wasn’t always John’s ‘theme verse’ however. From what John told me, his ‘theme verse’ was a whole lot closer to some of those others that we mentioned than it was to Isaiah 26:3. But, as he told it to me, he had the incredible fortune of meeting a godly woman with godly parents who turned his life around and changed the ‘theme’ of his life.

As he tells it, when he asked Karen’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage, Myron said, ‘not unless you start going to church.’ (Now, that’s a father’s love for his daughter.) And as John told it, he decided right then and there that that was a good a reason as he needed to start going to church.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” Karen said, ‘I’d like you to preach on that verse.’ And I’m glad she did. Let’s get to know this verse better, and in the course of doing so, hopefully better understand what it was about this verse that appealed to John that he would want this to be the ‘theme’ of his life.

First the context, because no verse stands alone all by itself. This verse is a part of a group of verses that form a ‘song.’ A ‘song’ that the prophet says that the people of God would learn to sing in the future. “In THAT DAY shall THIS SONG be sung in the land of Judah…”

Isaiah is preaching to the people of God, for whom, “that day” had not yet come. “That day” was a day in the future and not the present. The ‘theme’ for the life of the people of God IN THE PRESENT was one of hardship and slavery under a foreign power. Israel was to be conquered and deported to Babylon where an entire generation would live in exile. The holy city of Jerusalem would be destroyed along with the Temple and its walls.

The prophet makes it abundantly clear that this is going to happen because His people, like sheep, have gone astray from their Shepherd. They have put their trust in false gods – mostly themselves and their own ingenuity to do things their own way, even if it is contrary to God’s ways.

But because God will never give up on His people, (that’s just the kind of God He is), if they will not listen to the preaching of His prophets to turn and repent, then He will use more severe methods to turn their hearts. But He will never leave them or forsake them, and He will never stop hounding them to ‘repent and turn from their sin and put their trust in Him.’

The Psalmist describes the despair of God’s people in Babylon like this:
“By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors required of us SONGS, and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“SING us one of the songs of Zion!”
But how shall we SING the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1-4)

In answer to the Psalmist, the prophet declares,
“In that day THIS SONG SHALL BE SUNG in the land of Judah, (that land that lies in ruins)
‘We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks.
Open the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in.
Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee…”

From a song of lamentation and sorrow in the land of captivity to a song of praise and joy in the land of Judah. What a turn-around. What a reversal.

For those who trust in the Lord
• There is never a reason to worry or fear, for God redeems His people.
• Guilt for divine love spurned, is removed by God’s forgiveness and restoration.
• From a life of slavery to an evil lord, there is deliverance into a new life of grateful service under the God who is love.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee…”

“Thou wilt keep him in PERFECT PEACE.” The great word for ‘peace’ in the Hebrew is “shalom.” “Shalom” is that inner peace that is confident and at rest no matter what is happening on the outside, just because it knows that everything is going to turn out just fine. Everything is going to be okay. Because God is with me and God is in control.

It is entirely possible that this ‘INNER PEACE’ is based on nothing more than false ‘naiveté’ or misled confidence in the power of positive thinking. For some it’s the product of drugs and alcohol.

But for the one “whose mind is stayed on Thee,”
• whose mind is fixed where TRUE JOYS ARE TO BE FOUND,
• whose hopes are based on the God who NEVER FAILETH,
• whose house is built on the rock and not on the sand,
there is “perfect peace.”

I love the poetry of the Hebrew here. There’s actually no word for “perfect” in the Hebrew text. In the Hebrew it’s, “Thou wilt keep him in peace, peace.” “Shalom, shalom.” By repeating the word twice, the Hebrew wants to say, ‘this is a deep peace unlike any other peace that this world has to give.’ “A PERFECT” as only GOD HIMSELF is PERFECT. “Shalom, shalom.”

“Thou wilt KEEP him in perfect peace…”

To be “KEPT” by God, is to be ‘safeguarded’ by the One who is strong enough to ‘protect’ you and ‘deliver’ you from all evil. He is ALMIGHTY. There is great ‘peace’ in knowing that you are being ‘kept’ by One who is strong enough to KEEP you from all danger, even from the devil and hell itself.

Through commands Moses that every time His people come together, Aaron is to bless them with these words, “The Lord bless you and KEEP you….” What a wonderful gift of ‘peace’ we have when we know we are being ‘kept’ by God.

The Psalmist prays, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord… Behold, he that KEEPETH Israel shall not slumber nor sleep… The Lord is thy KEEPER… the Lord shall KEEP thy coming out and thy going in from this time forth, even for evermore.” (Psalm 121)

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he TRUSTETH in Thee…”

To ‘trust’ in God is put all your eggs in one basket – and that basket is God. Not like the ‘double minded man’ that James writes about, “who is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed about by the wind.” (James 1:8) Or, as Jesus describes, who wants to hedge his bets by serving both God and mammon.

The SINGLEMINDED MAN is the one who ‘WHOSE MIND IS STAYED ON THEE, BECAUSE TRUSTETH IN THEE.” Alone.

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee…”
What a wonderful ‘theme verse’ for ones life. And I think that anyone who knew John Hilton would say, what an appropriate ‘theme verse’ for his life.

And yet, if we are able to be completely honest here, I think must also say, that this verse does not describe John perfectly. In His 74 years of life, John never actually attained that “perfect peace” that God promises to him whose mind is PERFECTLY stayed on thee; who PERFECTLY trusteth in Thee.” A six -way heart by-pass is all the testimony to that that we need.

His mind was never perfectly stayed on God. He had his doubts and fears and worried about things, just as we all do because we are mortal, and all mortals are plagued with sin. His ‘trust in God’ wavered from time to time, as it does for us all.

But there is One whom this verse does describe ‘perfectly.’ One whose name also begins with “J.” “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Isn’t this the perfect ‘theme verse’ for Jesus Christ? But then again, isn’t the whole bible the theme song of Jesus Christ?

Even as He was taken into the captivity by the High Priest of Israel and the Governor of Judea, even as He suffered the punishment that was really ours to suffer, unjustly accused of crimes He didn’t commit, brutally beaten and nailed to a cross, even as he hung suspended above the world that He created, His mind PERFECTLY ‘stayed’ on God the Father, in PERFECT trust in God, God the Father kept His beloved Son in ‘PERFECT PEACE.’

By raising Him from the dead on the 3rd day, God declared for all the world to hear, “BEHOLD THE PRINCE OF PEACE.” “Listen to Him.” “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (John 14:27) “Peace be with you.”

St. Paul writes to the church declaring, “For in JESUS, all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, MAKING PEACE by the blood of his cross.” (Col. 1:19-20)

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee…”

I don’t know about you, but I find it to be a great relief that I don’t have to somehow try to persuade you that John Hilton was good enough or faithful enough to attain this “perfect peace” that only God can give. How refreshing to be able to say, ‘through faith in the ONE who is GOOD who is PERFECT, Jesus Christ our Lord, all that is His becomes ours, even as all of our sin became His.

There is one more thing that we need to say about this verse if we are to get to the bottom of it, and that has to do with the tenses of the verbs. “…whose mind IS stayed on thee: because he TRUSTETH in Thee…” That’s all PRESENT TENSE. That is to be the ‘theme of our life’ in the NOW.

But notice please that “Thou WILT keep him in perfect peace…” is in the future tense. As long as we are in the present, in this life, in this world, in the NOW, this PERFECT PEACE of GOD will never be fully realized by us. Because we will always be surrounded with temptations and doubts and fears and sin and we are weak.

But when leave this life, and this world, and move from the NOW to the THEN, from the PRESENT to the ETERNAL, then, then we will know God’s “perfect peace,” PERFECTLY, FULLY, COMPLETELY.

“In that day shall this song be sung…” Today, we are here to CELEBRATE the fact that ‘THAT DAY’ has come for John Edward Hilton. What lies in the ‘FUTURE’ for us who still live by faith, has become the ‘PRESENT’ for John who now lives by SIGHT.

His life of faith is OVER. FAITH that is based on what is ‘NOT SEEN’ has run its course and reached its goal. What was ‘not seen’ is now ‘seen.’ What was mixed with doubt and fear and worry is now PERFECTED PEACE.

By the grace of almighty God, through the love of Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit, John KNOWS IN FULL WHAT HE HAD ONLY KNOWN IN PART. He knows that PERFECT PEACE, that the Lord, his God kept for Him all along.

Today, in the present, in the NOW of ETERNAL LIFE, with the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, this song is being sung, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in Thee…”

Amen.

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