|Preacher||Rev. Maurice Roberts, Inverness|
|Sermon Title||God's Grace to Blind Sinners|
|Text||Isaiah ch.42 v.16 |
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"And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." (Isaiah 42,16)
Well now, some of you may not be familiar with the Book of Isaiah, and as I was reading through the chapter maybe you were saying, "What's all this talking about?" So let me take a moment just to tell you what the entire chapter here is all about. It's all about the most important thing in the world, which is how we can be saved, how we can get to heaven. Now the Old Testament and the New Testament both speak about the same subject - how we can be saved. And therefore of course - of course - they both talk about the Lord Jesus Christ because he is the Saviour, there is no other. So you can think of the Bible like that, like a pyramid. Here's the Old Testament, looking forward to the coming of Christ to die upon the cross for us. And here's the New Testament, looking back to Jesus Christ and what he has done for us in dying on the cross. So there's your symbol of the Bible - Old Testament looks forward to Christ, New Testament looks back to Christ, and it all is given to explain to us how you can become a Christian, how you can have faith, how you can be saved. Because that obviously is the most important thing God has to say to us.
All right, take that with you, and let me tell you now what this chapter is all about, very quickly, just in a few words. In the first part of this chapter, all the way down to verse 18, he is talking about the coming of Christ. We know that because of the language, "Behold my servant" and there we have a description of Christ who is the Servant of God to save us, to die for us, who loved us and came to bring salvation to us. So there's Christ, right at the beginning. Up to verse 18, all that deals with Christ's bringing salvation to the nations of the world - leaving aside the Jews for a moment. So those first 18 verses of the chapter deal with what Christ would do: he would die in order that the light of the gospel would shine throughout the world. And of course these nations are called the gentiles - you get it in verse 1, "he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles". That means he's going to tell us, in Scotland and England and Wales and Ireland and America and Australia and Russia, and the other gentile nations, how we can be saved. That's what Jesus came to do. And you get the same thing really again in verse 18 when it says, "Hear, ye deaf; and look, ye blind, that ye may see." See, he's talking to the gentiles who were deaf in those days and blind; we had no idea how to be saved. Maybe some of you have seen the Callanish stones in Lewis. Well the people that put them up centuries and centuries ago had no idea how to get to heaven. They lived and died in darkness. Same with the stones down at Stonehenge in Wiltshire in England; they had these great monuments of some sort of religious symbolism - they had no idea how to get to heaven. They lived and died in darkness because that was before Christ came. But when Christ came the gospel began to go throughout all the world, and the Holy Spirit and preachers with the Holy Spirit in them brought the gospel to Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, America, Australia; and all over the world this message has gone out to the gentiles. Well that's what you get in verses 1-18.
But then at verse 19 to the end of the chapter you get a change of emphasis. What do you get here? He is talking now at verse 19 about the Jews, "Who is blind, but my servant? or deaf, as my messenger that I sent? .... Seeing many things, but thou observest not." He means when Jesus Christ would come the Jews would kill him. That's exactly what they did because they were spiritually blind. They had the Old Testament but they didn't understand its meaning, they were spiritually blind. So here's the interesting thing about the chapter: the first 18 verses deal with the salvation of the world; and verses 19 to the end deal with the blinding of the Jews, and that's been true ever since. For two thousand years the Jews have rejected Christ - blind, blind, blind because they didn't accept him as their Messiah.
So that's the gist of what this whole chapter is about. And its relevance to your life is this: that here God is telling us how you personally may know everlasting life, and that's why I chose my text at verse 16. Let me read it again. God is speaking: "And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them." In other words God says, "I'm going to take a message to the whole of mankind which will utterly change their lives."
I'm going to take five little points out of this text and say what God means by each of these things. They're all in this text.
Now the first one is, God says: "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not." Now there are two kinds of blindness. One is blindness of the body and the other is blindness of the soul, spiritual blindness we call it. Now if you have blindness of the body you may not be to blame for that. I mean if you're born blind you're not to blame for that - it's not your fault if you're born blind, that's just God's sovereign will and nobody's to be blamed for being born blind. But if you're spiritually blind you are to blame for it, and sadly that's the condition in which we're all born. We're all born spiritually blind. We're all ignorant of God by nature, all ignorant of how to get to heaven by nature. Let me prove it.
Three great questions people never want to ask. Where do they come from? They don't know - maybe ape men or some big explosion or great bang or... they don't know, they don't know how they came and they don't want to enquire really. That's the first question. The second question is: what's life all about? Is it just getting dead drunk on a Friday night? Is that what life's all about? They don't know. You ask them. You ask people round about you in the street, "Why are we living in this world? What's the point of it all?" They don't know but they just found themselves here, like a spider that dropped from the ceiling, they don't know why they're here. The Bible says we're here to glorify God. We're here to prepare for death and eternity. Because the third great question is: where are we going? And if we don't know the way of eternal life and the way of the gospel then we're going to outer darkness forever.
So that's what God means when he says, "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not." People don't know how to get to heaven, so, because they're spiritually blind, God tells them, "I'm going to show them." And the way he shows them is with this book, the Bible, the gospel, the truth concerning Christ. He's showing us here in this inspired and infallible and blessed book how we can be saved. There's no other way, there's no other knowledge in the world that compares with this gospel knowledge. Well, says God, they don't know it. So it's in the Bible, says God, and I will give them my Holy Spirit to open their blind eyes.
Let me tell you a little story, boys and girls. It's a true one. Years and years ago there was a very clever man called Hone, that's his surname, Mr Hone - a very clever man - and not a Christian, and no interest in the Bible, no interest in Christ, no interest in heaven or anything like that. He was an unbeliever, a very hard man. And this is what happened to him. One day he was walking along down a street - I think it was somewhere in the south of England, or the Midlands - and he saw a cottage, a little house, and outside the cottage was sitting a little girl. What was she doing? She was reading the Bible. And his lips curled up in scorn. So he decided he would have a little conversation with this girl reading her Bible. So he said to her, "What are you doing?" "Please sir, she said, I'm reading the Bible." "And what would you be doing that for?" he said with scorn. And she said something like this: "Sir, because my dear mother is a believer and she gets a lot of help from this book, sir, and I love reading it too, with the sunshine, coming down and sitting in the sun, I love reading this book. It's God's book, sir," she said. And this man Hone was taken aback. He'd never heard anyone talk about loving the Bible, and he thought about it. And he came out of his darkness to become a believer - very famous story that - through a little girl. And you see, that's what God does. He brings the blind, the spiritually blind, by a way that they never knew. They come to understand the secret of God, the secret of the gospel. We don't know it by nature. Oh you can go to university and get first degrees, second degrees, third degrees, you can get a hundred degrees, but that won't necessarily save you. Oh yes, education's a good thing up to a point, but more important than education is to be saved, to know God, to be sure that you have God. So it's in the Bible we get this light. This book is God's light in man's darkness. But it has to be more than just reading the Bible. It has to be God giving us light on it. You see, "I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not." And this light has to shine in our hearts, and that's the light of the Holy Spirit.
Now let me describe what's in your heart, can I? I'm going to compare your heart, dear friends, to a dirty room that's been shut up for a hundred years. And inside this room, which has been shut up for a hundred years, no light has ever come; and when you think what's inside it... well I'll tell you what's inside the room - dirt, dust, cobwebs in every corner, spiders crawling up and down on the walls and across the floors, dust two inches thick on the floor. And nobody was ever in that room for a hundred years. And then suddenly, somebody comes in and puts a light on. What happens? Oh the spiders fly out of sight, and when you brush around, cobwebs fall, and you scoop away the dust, clear it out. Well that's what needs to happen to your heart, because that's the way we are, all of us. We have dirty, rotten, fallen natures and evil hearts full of darkness. But the light of the gospel shines in.
Let me ask you, has your heart received this light or are you still blind? Are you a blind person sitting here? Oh I know you're not physically blind, but are you spiritually blind? Well my friends, the answer is in my text. God promises to bring you by a way that you never thought of. It's the gospel. It's Christ's way. It's the way of life and of salvation. So your duty is to say to God, "Lord, I take thy promise and I ask thee to bring me by this gospel way, that I might find eternal life." That's the first thing.
Now the second thing is this. God says in this text, "I will lead them in paths that they have not known" - unknown paths, that's the next thing. God leads people to salvation by unknown paths. That is to say, people don't know how to be saved. Again let me tell you what people think about how to be saved. If you knock on the doors of the people all around here in Inverness or Dingwall or Edinburgh or Timbuktu or Adelaide, Australia or anywhere else, knock on the doors of people who are not Christians and say to them, "Excuse me, how can we get to heaven?" I'll tell you what they'll say, "Oh... by being good, and by praying a lot and by stopping the drinking habits and by stopping swearing and by going to church." And "worshipping the Virgin Mary will help you, and going to the priest and confessing to him will help you..." That's what people think, you know, as to how to get to heaven. And it's all complete nonsense. There's nothing in the Bible from start to finish about any of those things as a way to get to heaven. You see, it's this that God is saying, "I will lead them in paths they have not known." People don't know the gospel by nature; they have to be shown the gospel.
Now, how is it that God does this? He does it by making people feel a sense of their need, but they don't even know what it is they need! But God somehow, in a wonderful way, touches their hearts and consciences and makes people feel their sense of need. I'll tell you a story about this. Boys and girls, you'll like this one. It is a true story of a man we knew in Stornoway. He's now gone to be in heaven with Christ. But this is a story about how he came to Christ - a true story. He was like everybody else, quite fond of life and happy with life, until one day he began to feel something was missing in his life. He didn't know what it was so he put it out of his mind. But it kept coming back until it made him feel ill. And he was so ill he actually went to bed. There was nothing wrong with him physically but he went to bed and the doctor was called. And, fortunate for him, it was a Christian doctor whom we know very well, and this is her story. She said, "I went into the room and here was the man in the bed, and he had the bedclothes covering his head. He didn't want to see me." And with head under the bedclothes the doctor at the bedside began to talk to him, and it very quickly became apparent to her, as a doctor, that there was nothing wrong with him, not with his body anyway, so she said to him, "Are you feeling that you have a need of some spiritual help?" And little by little the bedclothes came down. She said, "Are you perhaps feeling you need God in your life?" And the bedclothes came down. He was listening, you see. That's what he really needed and his conscience told him that was the answer to his problem. So she used this illustration. She said, "Tell me now, if you were very hungry and there was a shop selling bread round the corner, wouldn't you be well advised to get up out of bed and buy some bread?" The bedclothes were coming down and he was all ears now. "But," she said, "there's a church down there in Stornoway, and if you went to this church - it's like the bread shop," she said - "you'll get bread for your soul and your problem will be over." By now the bedclothes were really down. And he started to go to church and he found Christ. That's what he needed, you see. And that's what my text is talking about: "I will lead them in paths that they have not known."
My dear friend, have you a sense of need and you don't know what to do about it? Have you felt in your heart of hearts that something is missing in your life? Well, it's God speaking to you, and he's saying, "What you need is my spiritual blessing. You can't do without it." Oh, we can do without many things but we can't do without God's spiritual blessing. Why? Well because God made us for himself and our heart is restless till we find our rest in God. You know, that's why these people try to make themselves happy with football and drink and pop music and all the rest. They are looking to find health and satisfaction in these things. That's why they get dead drunk, that's why they go onto drugs. They think if you take these things you'll get that elusive happiness, but you don't. So far from getting happiness you make yourself more depressed and more miserable. God's way is the right way and the safe way, and this is what it is: "I will lead them in paths they have not known." That means, "I will show them the gospel way to get to heaven", which is the only way. And what is the gospel way?
Well, let's go back to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Do you remember, in chapter 3 of Genesis, they sinned against God and their consciences told them they were now guilty? They didn't want to meet God. God used to speak with them in the evening of the day. He appeared to them and talked to them, as friends talk to a friend. But when they committed sin their consciences said, "We daren't face him", so they hid behind the bushes and under the trees, and they covered their nakedness with fig leaves. They got leaves off a bush and sewed them together and stuck on these aprons or little clothes, making clothes that covered themselves from their nakedness in the sight of God. And when God appeared and talked to them, when he had told what they needed to hear, God said, "Put on these other clothes." He gave them skins to put on. And the fig leaves were thrown aside and they put on these garments made of skins.
Now you say, "What's the difference?" I'll tell you. Before you can get skins you have to get an animal. And before you can get the skin off an animal you have to kill it and shed its blood. And what God was doing with that was giving them a very simple picture story to point them forward to Somebody who was going to come into the world one day and shed his blood for sinners. Of course you know who it is. It's the blessed Jesus of whom we were speaking earlier. Everything in the Old Testament pointed forward, you remember, to the coming of Jesus. Well, this is it, you see: "I will lead the blind in the way they have not known." Do you know the gospel way? Do you understand the secret of the gospel? It's in one word. The secret of the gospel is this: faith in Christ. Leave out trusting in prayer, leave out trusting in going to church, leave out trusting in being good - they have their place, oh yes, they have their place. But if you want to be saved the secret of the gospel is FAITH ALONE in CHRIST ALONE. That's the whole gospel. But people don't know that, and nobody knows that until God shines in their heart and gives them that knowledge. And God here tells us he will do that.
What's the third thing? "I will make darkness light before them." In other words, God is telling us he is going to open blind eyes and shine in blind hearts and give them understanding of the truth. Now we get beautiful stories of this all throughout the Bible. Let's take two. Take the man born blind in John chapter 9 - born blind, really blind, physically blind in his case, and it wasn't his fault. Jesus said it's not something he's to be blamed for or his parents; it's for God's sake, for the glory of God that this man was born blind. And Jesus said to the blind man, "Go to the pool of Siloam [which was in Jerusalem] and wash." And the man did as he was told. And when you do what God says you will always get a blessing - always. You try it if you're not sure. When you know it's your duty to do something and God gives you advice in his Word, always do what God says and you will certainly get a blessing - always. So this blind man set off, went to the pool of Siloam, and here it was. I don't know how he did it - with a bucket or with his hands - got water, poured it on his face. "Go and wash in the pool of Siloam." Immediately his eyes were opened and he saw everything. And he came back and he said, "Come and see a man; this man must be the Son of God." Well that's what happened, you see. When you have your eyes opened then you know that Jesus is the Son of God - that's what you know immediately. You don't need to have a PhD in Biblical Studies to know that Jesus is God. As soon as your eyes are open you know him - he's mine! He's my Lord! He's washed my heart; he's given me new understanding. And people dance for joy - I've found Christ!
Or take another example. Take Zaccheus whom we meet in one of the Gospels. He was a little man, short in stature, couldn't see over the heads of the crowd, and Jesus was passing by down the street and Zaccheus couldn't see him because he was too small. So this man - he was very rich actually - climbed up a tree. Can you believe that - a rich man climbing up a tree to have a look at Jesus Christ? That's what he did. And up inside the boughs of the tree he saw Jesus was there and, to his amazement, Christ stopped and he looked up. "Zaccheus," he says, "come down; I must come to your house today." He came down quickly, and as he came down he had a new heart given him. He came to know Christ as his Saviour. Jesus put forth that wonderful power to save him. And Christ went into his house and this man made a meal for him, no doubt, and this was what Zaccheus said: "Lord, if ever I've taken money from anybody under false pretences, I'll give it them back fourfold" (four times over). And Jesus said, "salvation has come to this house; he also is a child of Abraham." You see how Jesus knew that? It was because the man was repenting. He was now being honest. He was a rich man before and I dare say he had used his power as a tax collector to exploit his position and gain money without justification from people. But now, you see, he's repenting; he's giving it back. His changed life shows he's got a new heart.
Now that's how you know if you're a Christian though. A real Christian is one who wants to do what is right, to do what is honest. That's the proof of being a Christian, to be sincere and upright. That's the proof that Christ has changed your life. And that's the third thing here.
Now the fourth thing is this in my text. It goes like this. He says, "I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight" to them. Crooked things occur in our lives, don't they? What's meant by 'crooked things'? Well, it means problems we can't understand, and we've all got those, haven't we? Haven't you got problems in your life? You may say, "Why did my dear husband have to die?" "Why did my dear wife have to get ill?" "Why is my child laid in bed?" "Why has my uncle got to go to hospital?" "Why have I lost my health?" "Why did they have that car smash and their bodies are now ruined for the rest of their lives?" These are crooked things. Oh the Bible has a lot of these crooked things and gives us a lot of understanding about them. Take the Book of Job; there's a book full of crooked things. I hope you've read the Book of Job. If not, you should study it. It's a wonderful book. It's full of crooked things.
Let me tell you about the Book of Job. Job was a rich man. Everything was going fine for years and suddenly everything went wrong. His children were killed, his house was smashed, his health broke down, and all the rest of it. It couldn't have been much worse. And he was sitting in the dust, scraping himself because he was covered with boils from head to foot. Now that's a tremendous change from being rich and powerful and influential, to being ill and lost property, lost money, lost children and so on. And he couldn't understand it. It was a tremendous problem. "Why has God done this to me?" was the question. And maybe you have a question like that. But when you read the Book of Job you'll see God was working everything out wisely for Job's good. So Job had twice as much in the end, twice as much as he had before. And that's what God does to his people; he brings them down so as to bring them up again, higher than ever. He does them, if you like, some difficulty so that they may be wiser and better as a consequence. God has to be cruel to be kind - that's God's way.
So many people take the gospel for granted, and maybe you're one of them. Maybe you've heard the gospel lots of times and maybe you're yawning your head off and saying, "I hope this fellow won't be too much longer because I'd love to get home and watch the television." Well, if that's what you're thinking, let me say this to you: there are plenty of people who have known the gospel for years, but maybe the only way God will get you to listen to the gospel is when he puts you in a sickbed, or you're carted out in an ambulance to Raigmore. And there in the quietness of a hospital ward you say to yourself: "Am I going to die?" And then maybe you'll see the need you have of Christ and the gospel and eternal life, because many people die, and they die without Christ and they go into eternal death. I hope you know that, dearest friends.
So this is what God means here. "I will bring them through crooked things and make them straight for them." You know, the cross of Christ is a crooked thing. Well look at that. There it is - there's the cross, a crooked cross. And the cross of Christ is crooked to so many people. They say, "Why did Jesus Christ have to die? He was such a wonderful man. Why did God punish him? Why did God curse him? Why did God bring that death and pain upon him? He didn't deserve it." It's a crooked thing, you see. They can't understand the cross. And the explanation is that God cursed Him for your sake and my sake. He died on the cross for our sake. He died in the room of the wicked - the just dying for the unjust, suffering our penalty, that we might be saved. That's the wonderful thing about the gospel, that's the amazing thing. God is making this crooked thing to be straightforward.
Here's another crooked thing. People say: Why does God send anyone to hell? Why doesn't God simply forgive everyone? Why doesn't God simply do this and forgive everybody, saying, "Go and get a clean slate; go on, off you go, and don't be naughty again."? Why doesn't God do that? I'll tell you. If you think that's a crooked thing, that God sends people to hell, I'll tell you why he does it. It's because God is infinitely holy and he cannot forgive sin except on the basis of his own justice being satisfied. God cannot forgive sin unless a penalty is suffered. and that's because God is the God he is. Now you may not like that, but I have to tell you the truth. Whether you like it or not, that is the truth. God will not forgive anyone except on the basis of his justice being satisfied. That's why Jesus had to die; he died to satisfy the justice of God. And that's a very crooked thing in the eyes of many people. But you see, God is saying he will make the crooked things straight. And as soon as you understand the gospel you see the meaning of these crooked things. And if people will not believe in Christ there is only one place that they can go to. And I'm very sorry to have to say this, but it's a terrible place - eternal punishment, hellfire, damnation, banishment from the presence of God forever.
I have no pleasure, my dear friends, in telling you that, but I have to tell you that because it is my duty to tell you that. If I didn't tell you that, I would be deceiving you, I would be leading you under a false impression. There is no peace to the wicked, and there is no salvation until we believe in Jesus Christ alone - that's the fact of the matter. You can study the Bible from end to end; if you find anything in the Bible that contradicts that, I will apologise and take it back, but that's what my Bible says when I study it, and I've studied it for over fifty years. I can assure you that is the truth. There is no salvation except through the Lord Jesus Christ. And the crooked things of God will all be made plain in the end.
So now, let me ask you, every one of you, are you right with God? Are you trusting in his blood, the blood of Jesus? And if not, do you realise the danger you're under of dying suddenly in a car accident or whatever, and being lost? There is no second chance. You can't get a return ticket, I'm afraid, from hell. There are no aeroplanes, no helicopters; no rescue services will take you out of there.
And the last thing, briefly, is this. God says when people come to Christ he will not forsake them. Do you see that at the end? "These things will I do unto them and not forsake them." What does that mean? Well it means that God, when he saves you and brings you to Christ, he won't let you go back again into the world. I know a young man who is a student, and he came to Christ as a student. And he went to his dear father who was a nice man but not a Christian, and this is what he said to his father: "Father," he said, "I've become a real Christian; I believe in Jesus now." And the father said, "Oh it'll pass off son; these things come and go in our lives; it's just a phase. Don't take it too seriously." But it didn't pass off. And his father came to see the same thing, and his father was converted too. You see, once you're saved, you're saved forever. You can't go back. And that's not thanks to us; that's thanks to God. He keeps us by his power. "I will not forsake them," says God, "I will not leave them, I will not give them up, I will not give them over."
So, two things as I close. The first one is this: to those of you here tonight who have very little faith, maybe you feel you're not very sure if you're a Christian or not. Well, I say, if you have even a tiny little bit of faith, as small as a mustard seed, you will be saved. Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest of all the seeds. I don't know how big other seeds are. We know what coconuts are like. Coconuts are like that, and grapefruit is like that; down to nuts and other things. But the mustard seed, apparently, is the tiniest of all the seeds. You can hardly see it in the palm of your hand. But, says Christ, when it grows it's one of the biggest of all shrubs or plants or trees; so big that the birds of the air make nests in it. Now, it's like that with faith. My dear friend, you may be a very weak Christian, and you may be so weak, as a Christian, that you can't even say you're a Christian. You may say, "Well I hope I'm a Christian but I'm not sure." Or "I do hope I'm a believer but I'm not sure," you say. Well, I want to say to you: God will not forsake you, no matter how weak your faith is. If you have even the grain of true faith in Jesus Christ you will certainly get to heaven just as much as the apostle Paul, or Calvin, or Luther, or these great men of old, or women of old. If you have faith, even the tiniest faith, you will be saved. So be comforted, my dear friend. If you lack much assurance, be comforted. Look at the promise: "I will not forsake them." Because, you see, if you have faith in Christ it was him who gave it to you, so here's the comfort. He will be with you always, until you get safe home to glory. Be your faith never so small, if you have real faith you have true faith.
Now, my last word is for those of you who are not Christians yet, and that don't have faith. And perhaps you say to me: "What does it mean to have faith?" So here's my final word to you before I close. What does it mean to have faith? I'm going to say to you what the great preacher in London, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, used to say. This was his illustration I think and it's a good one. He said: "Faith is like this. Imagine there's a three-storey house and there's a little boy upstairs in the bedroom on the third storey - it's a big house and there's the boy upstairs. And a fire breaks out in the storeys below. There's no way the boy can get down the stairs. But the father is standing outside the window on the ground level, outside you see. So the boy is looking through the window. The fire is there; the boy cannot come down. What does the father do? 'Don't worry son,' he says, 'you jump and I'll catch.' Well that's not an easy thing to do, is it? None of us enjoys jumping out of windows - not third floor windows, least of all. But the boy said, 'What am I going to do? I don't like jumping all that way and father may not be strong enough; or I may jump in a way he can't catch; or I may break both my legs and kill myself.' It's not an easy thing to do, jumping out of a third floor window, even with a fire underneath. But just then the flames come flashing through the floorboards. 'Ooh,' says the boy, 'I'd better do something quickly.' So he jumps and his father catches him and hugs him. 'Now,' he says, 'we're together again.'" Now that's faith.
My friend, you've only got a limited time to make up your mind. The fire is burning, and hellfire will catch all that don't jump. Jump into the arms of Jesus and he will do everything in my text. He will receive you, embrace you, love you, comfort you, forgive you; yes, and in the end take you to glory. And we'll all be there happily together in his heavenly house above.
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