Archive for the ‘Isaiah’ Category

Isaiah 53, “Jesus: Rejected, Substitute, Sufficient”

“Good Friday.” The name is ironic. Considering that this is the day set aside in the year for Christians to remember Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, it does not initially seem to be good at all. What is good in Jesus being betrayed to the Jews and delivered to the Romans? What is good in His being beaten beyond recognition? What is good about the spikes driven through His wrists and feet, about His hanging in prolonged agony, in the mockery He endured from the crowd, or in His anguished death? What is good about any of that?

Perhaps there are several answers to the question, one of which being that it is good for what it accomplished. Without a crucifixion, there is no resurrection. Without the combination of the two with the Lord Jesus, there is no salvation. That alone makes it good. But there is something else, something more fundamental. It is good because it is of God. The crucifixion of Jesus was God’s idea – it was God’s plan for His Son. This was His will at work, for the purpose of reconciling the universe back to Himself and to reconcile men & women unto God. God willed that Jesus should die for the sins of mankind, of sinners like you and me. That alone makes it good.

It is this plan of God that is on display in Isaiah 53. It is without doubt a Messianic passage, used by Philip with the Ethiopian eunuch to bring him to faith in Christ (Acts 8:32-35) and referenced by Peter as an example of how Jesus suffered for us, thus we should expect similar suffering (1 Pt 2:21-25). Even Jesus saw this prophecy as speaking of His own suffering, specifically quoting it to the disciples the night He was arrested (Lk 22:37). This is no spiritualized picture of Israel; this is the prophesied work and suffering of Jesus Christ. We read it rightly when we see its fulfillment in Jesus.

The theology of the passage is rich, but tonight is not about an in-depth study pouring over every word. Rather, it is a time for reflection & remembrance – for us to take a step back and be in awe at our Jesus. We want God to speak to us through His Scripture, directing our attention and our devotion to Him for what was done to and through Christ.

In the prophecy, we see three main roles of Jesus, all entwined with each other. Each of these roles can be summarized with a single word. Jesus is: (1) the Man of Sorrows…rejected; (2) the sacrificial Lamb…substitute; (3) the suffering Servant…sufficient. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the plan of God. If it were not for God willing His Son to suffer on our behalf, none of us would be saved. How we praise God for His good will on this Good Friday regarding His good Son: Jesus!

Isaiah 53

  • The Man of Sorrows (1-3): Rejected.

1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

Isaiah writes of the report that was disbelieved, or even unheard. What report? The few verses prior in Chapter 52 that speaks of the astonishment of the nation at God’s chosen Servant. Although God willed that this Servant be highly extolled and exalted, the Servant would first suffer. Isaiah wrote that “His visage was marred more than any man,” (52:14) and that “kings shall shut their mouths at Him,” (52:15) unable to comprehend what they witnessed. How could the chosen Servant of God, the Anointed One, the King of kings and Lord of lords…how could that One suffer such horrible punishment? Should not the Chosen One live a life of luxury and honor? That is expectation of royalty. When we think of kings, queens, and princes, etc., we think of their subjects bowing before them, honoring them; not beating them to a pulp and despising them. 

Yet that was the expectation for this Servant. The One chosen by God would come from humble beginnings, “as a root out of dry ground,” and He would have a humble life in general. Nothing about Him would initially stand out to the crowds as kingly. When Saul was initially presented by Samuel to Israel, the crowds all nodded their heads in agreement, affirming that Saul looked like a king. He was tall and handsome and easy to look at (not like the ruddy-faced kid that would come later in David). This was not the case with Jesus, God’s true Servant. There was nothing about His appearance that screamed “Messiah! King!” Although angels announced His birth from a virgin mother, He was raised by a humble carpenter and lived a boyhood life of relative obscurity and near-poverty. In the eyes of the world, this was not the résumé of a king. In the eyes of God, Jesus had all the qualifications required, yet His own nation was blind.

Instead of receiving Jesus, they rejected Him. They did not desire Him; they despised Him. They did not esteem Him; they spurned Him. John writes: “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him,” (Jn 1:11). His own nation turned their backs on Him. No wonder that Jesus was prophesied to be “a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” The pain experienced by Christ was at least as much spiritual as it was physical. It was all part of His suffering.

Jesus was truly rejected by those He came to save. Those who owed Him their allegiance derided Him. Not only did they clamor for His crucifixion, preferring to have the murderous terrorist Barabbas released to them rather than Jesus, but they even mocked Him while looking upon Him hanging on the cross. They could not have rejected Jesus any more than they did. It was a total repudiation of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.

But again, these were the ones Jesus came to save. Hanging from the cross, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do,” (Lk 23:34). Oh, they understood that they were cruel in their mockery; they just didn’t understand Who they mocked. If they did, they wouldn’t have dared uttered a word! This was God in the flesh, One who could call down a legion of angels to destroy them. This was the God that would one day judge each and every one of them – the God from whose righteous wrath they required salvation. And that was what Jesus provided that day. He gave them the means to find refuge from the wrath of God. They didn’t know it, and they rejected Him.

We did, too. How long did each of us live our lives rejecting the gift of Jesus Christ? How many years passed with us mocking the Son of God, despising His sacrifice for us? How long did we usurp the rightful place of God in our lives, declaring ourselves to be our own lords and masters? And yet…Jesus died for people like us. He died for those who rejected Him, that we might reject Him no longer!

  • The Sacrificial Lamb (4-9): Substitute.

4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Are there any verses in the Bible that speak more clearly of Jesus’ substitutionary sacrifice for us? Centuries before Jesus walked the earth in His incarnation, the prophet Isaiah wrote of Christ’s work as a substitute. Jesus put Himself in our place, taking on our sins, bearing the wrath of God in our place as our punishment. The apostle Paul put it this way: 2 Corinthians 5:21, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus knew no sin, having committed none of His own, nor being born with a sinful nature like ours. Yet He became sin when He became our sin offering for us. Hanging upon that bloody cross, Jesus bore each of our griefs and sorrows. Every wound on His body was inflicted for our many transgressions against God. Every bruise and each blackened eye were for the iniquities of men and women. Jesus deserved none of it. We did; He didn’t. He was truly and totally innocent. Yes, He was tempted just like every human being is tempted, but He did not fall to that temptation. Jesus did not live in a holy bubble, sealed off from even the possibility of sin. On the contrary, Jesus was surrounded by sinful people and subjected to the personal spiritual onslaught of Satanic attack. Yet Jesus prevailed! Jesus was sinless and deserved no suffering whatsoever. But suffer, He did. He suffered in ways that our minds can hardly imagine.

Yet it was not in vain! Jesus’ suffering produced tremendous results. What was the fruit of His punishment? “Our peace.” The shalom (wholeness, peace) we need with God, Jesus provides. The spiritual healing we require from the death earned by our sin, Jesus bought and paid for “by His stripes.” Everything we need to be restored into full relationship with God is made possible through Jesus Christ.

What was the cost? Jesus Himself. For us to be healed – for us to have shalom peace with God, it required that our “iniquity” be laid on Christ. We needed a perfect substitute, a perfect sacrifice. Jesus was it.

What did that sacrifice look like? …

7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

How accurately Isaiah prophesied the passion and suffering of Jesus! Though “oppressed and…afflicted” in a series of unjust trials, Jesus did not attempt to defend Himself and gain judicial victory. Certainly, He could have if He desired. No one would have been able to mount a self-defense in court like Jesus! But He chose otherwise. Jesus understood that the cross was necessary for the plan of God, so He made no attempt to avoid it. “He opened not His mouth.” The Jewish high priest was astounded, incredulously asking Jesus, “Do You answer nothing?” (Mt 26:62). Likewise, Pilate “marveled greatly,” when Jesus did not answer the charges against Him (Mt 27:14). Even Herod was frustrated at Jesus’ silence, cruelly mocking Jesus when Herod didn’t get the answers he wanted (Lk 23:9-11). Jesus had no reason to answer any of them. He was fully prepared for the suffering and death He would face. That battle was resolved the previous night in the Garden of Gethsemane as great drops of blood came down Jesus’ face in anguished sweat. Though He prayed that God might remove this cup of wrath from Him, Jesus faithfully prayed that God’s will be done. In the mockery and cruelty of the various national leaders, God’s will was being done. It was God’s will that Jesus go to the cross; this was how it had to be.

At that point, Jesus was taken from the custody of the Roman soldiers (a kind of “prison” and “judgment” in itself) and terribly affixed to the cross with three massive spikes. Hanging there for hours, “He was cut off from the land of the living,” as He hung until He died. It was the death of a criminal, and indeed, He hung between two other criminals – perhaps the very terrorist partners of Barabbas. Jesus died the death of a transgressor, but it was not His own transgressions for which He died, but “for the transgressions of My people,” the “My” speaking of the people of God. Jesus died on that cross as the Savior of Israel. He died on that cross for your sins and for mine. Every tortured breath took while hanging there was a moment of suffering that you and I deserved. That should have been us; it was Him.

Finally, He died and the rest of the prophecy was fulfilled. Jesus died literally beside two “wicked” men, and the initial expectation of His burial would have been to throw His body into a mass grave along with other criminals. Instead, Jesus was “with the rich at His death” as Joseph of Arimathea gave Jesus a brand-new tomb, with both Joseph and Nicodemus the Pharisee personally attending to Jesus’ dead body. The two Sanhedrin members packed Jesus’ body with almost one hundred pounds worth of spices (Jn 19:39) – a magnificent gift, provided by two men who had not the courage to honor Jesus in life, but felt compelled to do so at His death. Jesus died the death of a criminal, but He received a burial befitting a king!

Why did it all have to be this way? It was the will of God…

  • The Suffering Servant (10-12): Sufficient.

10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand.

Why did Jesus die on the cross? Yes, it was for our sins. But ultimately, it was the will of God. “It pleased the LORD to bruise Him.” The word translated “pleased” could also be translated “delighted.” We don’t want to get the wrong idea. God the Father is not a sadist, being overjoyed at seeing His only begotten Son in suffering and anguish. Rather, God is well-pleased when His will is done. Sometimes hard things, difficult things, please us when they bring about the right result. No mother enjoys the pains of labor but they are delighted to hold their newborn son or daughter. If the pain of childbirth is what is required for the baby to come, so be it. 

Likewise, with the plan of God. God’s plan did not begin and end with Jesus’ suffering and death. If that were all that was desired, that would be cruel indeed. But the bruising and grief of Jesus had a specific purpose: it was “an offering for sin.” Ever since the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden, sin has been in this world and there was only one answer to it: a sufficient sacrifice. Without a sufficient shedding of blood – without a death of greater value than the sin that made it necessary, sin would remain in this world and this universe would remain perverted from God’s original intent for it. For these things to be made right, a sufficient sin offering needed to be made. Jesus made it and God was pleased. Moreover, God was even the One who ordained it, ultimately being the One who put Jesus “to grief.” God did what it took for sin to be squashed and for death to be conquered, and the result brought Him pleasure and delight.

Why? Because it was sufficient! What Jesus did was enough and the proof was in the resurrection, here too prophesied by Isaiah. Although the Suffering Servant truly died, He would still “see His seed” (i.e. the offspring of the church) and “He shall prolong His days.” How can a dead man’s days be prolonged? They can’t. Only a living or a resurrected Man’s days are prolonged. Such is Jesus!

11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

The work of Jesus was truly enough! The labor He poured out on the cross was satisfactory. What Jesus accomplished was able to “justify many,” making us right in the sight of God. Whereas our sins separated us from God, Jesus reconciles us back to God, zeroing out the infinite debts we owed through our “iniquities.” Everything we require for eternal life yet could never achieve on our own, Jesus achieved in full and freely offers.

It is no wonder that God exalts Jesus in the way He does! Jesus came to earth in utmost humility but has been raised to great glory. He lived a life of poverty but has inherited a future of victory. The language used by Isaiah is normally used of military warriors who gain “spoil” from the cities they conquered. Jesus is the Victorious Warrior! The enemy He conquered was no mere human nation; Jesus conquered sin and death itself. Death has no more sting, nor does Hades have any victory because Jesus has all victory! He won it at the cross and proved it in the resurrection. It came from His obedience to suffer, and His suffering was sufficient. Today, we enjoy the spoils of His victory. Our sin is gone because Jesus bore it – our transgressions are removed because Jesus numbered us with Himself.

Praise be to God for Jesus Christ our Lord!

On Good Friday, we remember the cross. But we also remember that the cross is not the end; it leads to a specific event: the resurrection. Yes, Jesus suffered immensely – yes, Jesus died – yes, Jesus was buried. But that is not all…praise God, it is not all! Jesus went from that death and burial to resurrected life, and in His life, we find the hope and promise of new life. We are forgiven! Our transgressions are forever removed, all because of the work of Jesus.

Is this your hope? Is this your trust? This is the promise that is available to all the world, yet it will only be experienced by those who have received Jesus as Savior and Lord. Tonight, receive Him! Although you rejected Jesus in the past, He was your substitute for sin when He died on the cross, and His death is sufficient for you as seen in His resurrection. You know the truth; now act on it in faith.

Isaiah 40, “Comforting News of Coming Messiah”

August 28, 2013

Sometimes the best news is the news of what is yet to come. As kids (and sometimes as adults), we want things “right here & right now” – but that’s not always the best. Fruit takes time to ripen – investments take time to grow – goals take training to achieve. If we were to take any one of those things early, it would look (and perhaps BE) terrible – but knowing what is yet to come helps us endure the wait.

The Jewish people had a promise of God of what was yet to come. They were told what they would face in the immediate future, and it didn’t look good at all. But there was something better coming: God the King. If they would but wait upon Him, they would find He was worth the wait.

Chapter 40 marks a distinct change in the book of Isaiah. Previously, God had primarily warned the people of Judah about the coming Assyrian invasion. He did have much to say to other nations that surrounded Judah at the time, as well as regarding His future plan for His people during the promised Millennial Kingdom. Through Isaiah, God had consistently called upon His people to repent from their sin, turn away from their pride, turn away from human methods, and to seek the face of God. He had a plan for His people, and He would not only preserve them through the current trial of the Assyrians, but He would prosper His beloved covenantal people in the age to come.

On the heels of all of that, Isaiah showed the culmination of the prophecies regarding the Assyrian invasion. Poetic form gave way to narrative as the history of God’s deliverance was shown. King Hezekiah had thrown himself and his people upon the mercies of God, and witnessed God’s miraculous power in His protection of Jerusalem. When he received word of his own impending death, Hezekiah again threw himself upon the mercies and covenant promises of God, and God extended his life. Of course, the king didn’t always act in wisdom. Part of how he used his extended life was to show off the riches of Jerusalem to ambassadors from Babylon – the very nation God had said would one day take Judah into captivity. Where Assyria had been turned away by God, Babylon would be brought in by God & He would judge His people for their idolatrous ways.

Chapter 40 turns back to prophecy, beginning a long section of God’s loving appeal to His people, revealing Him in His power and righteousness, and promising to come in power and glory as their King. There would indeed be suffering to come (much of it in the near future), but the people of God could take comfort in the fact that God Himself would come to them…and that is exactly what we see in both the 1st and 2nd comings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Isaiah 40

  • Announcement of the Lord’s Coming (vss. 1-8)

1 “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” Says your God. 2 “Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, That her warfare is ended, That her iniquity is pardoned; For she has received from the LORD’s hand Double for all her sins.”

  1. Whose people? “My people…says your” To read some of the other prophets, we might get the idea that God did not consider the Jewish people to be His people. In fact, He says as much to Hosea when He commanded Hosea’s newborn son to be named “Lo-Ammi” because the Jewish nation was not His people, and He would not be their God. (Hos 1:9) He had cast them off & refused to hear their prayers when they cried out for deliverance from Babylon. (Jer 7:16) God had determined to send them into captivity for their repeated sins against Him, and His plan was not going to change. Yet although the Jews did not always act like the people of God, there’s no doubt that God always saw them as His people. His anger with them did not last forever – and the covenants God made with Abraham and David were unbreakable. Though the activities of the relationship between God and the Jews changed depending on their obedience to Him, the nature/foundation of their relationship remained steadfast. God would continue to be their God, even when they did not recognize Him as such. Eventually they would turn in repentance, and God would one day be able to speak “comfort” to His people as their God.
  2. Beyond their relationship is the message. What did God want to speak to His people? “” He wanted them to be at ease and rest. … And He tells us why: Zion would finally be at peace! No more war – no more sin – all the debt they had owed towards God was paid. All of that sounds absolutely wonderful, but it begs the question as to what war/debt was being referred to here? The Assyrian threat was gone, but the Babylonian captivity was in the near future – and that seems to be what is in view. Imagine having just received the news that although your nation had been delivered from one tragedy, an even worse one waited on the horizon. And from that, there would be no escape. To know that God still had a plan for you would be comforting. Even for those who would endure the time of the Babylons…imagine having been in captivity for 69 years, knowing that God had promised 70 years of captivity. It would almost be over – freedom would be at hand! What God had declared regarding their judgment had certainly come to pass, so there would be no need to doubt that what God promised regarding their restoration would come to pass. Truly they could be comforted!
    1. Beyond restoration to the land is their restoration unto God. They would have been cast away & been a by-word. Now God is calling them by name as His people again. Their sin would have been answered in full, and now God was receiving them back to Himself. What a wonderful word of hope!
    2. All of this is about to point towards Jesus, but even in these first few verses we can already see our hope in Christ Jesus. Because of Jesus, WE are the people of God. Because of Jesus, WE receive the comfort of God. Because of Jesus, OUR sin is forgiven, and Jesus has paid all our debt (and then some!). We are no longer at war against God because Jesus has become our peace. This is the best, most comforting news in all the world!

3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; 5 The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

  1. Immediately these words ought to be familiar to us as referring to the ministry of John the Baptist. All four gospel writers refer to John using this quote from Isaiah, and the Baptist expressly claims it for himself (Jn 1:23). This “voice” refers (at least in part) to the greatest prophet the world has ever known: John the Baptist. He came in the spirit and power of Elijah to prepare the nation to see their Messiah. Their King was approaching, and people needed to be ready! The imagery would have been familiar to ancient Middle Eastern people. When kings would plan to come through certain areas, roads were prepared for them. Potholes were fixed, and villages went to lengths in preparation for their king. This is what people needed to do within their hearts as they looked to the rapidly approaching Messiah.
  2. Not only does this look to Jesus’ 1st coming, but also to His 2nd! In His 1st coming, John the Baptist figuratively prepared the road for Jesus, telling the Jews (and all who would hear) that they need to humble themselves and prepare their hearts. Yet there is a more literal fulfillment of this prophecy during the end of the Great Tribulation when massive world-wide calamities occur, and mountains are literally flattened prior to the great and glorious coming of Jesus in judgment. At that time, truly “all flesh shall see it together,” because when Jesus comes, every eye will see Him. (Rev 1:7). And likewise, there will also be at least one voice (if not 144,000) crying out to the world to prepare the way for the Lord to come.
  3. Don’t miss how “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed”: it’s when Jesus shows up. Be in in His 1st or 2nd coming, Jesus IS the revelation of the glory of God! Hebrews 1:1–3, “(1) God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, (2) has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; (3) who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” We see the glory of God when we look upon our Lord Jesus!

6 The voice said, “Cry out!” And he said, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field. 7 The grass withers, the flower fades, Because the breath of the LORD blows upon it; Surely the people are grass. 8 The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.”

  1. Who is the “the voice”? (Not the winner of a TV singing contest! J) In vs. 3, it is plainly a reference to John the Baptist (as shown repeatedly in the NT). Here, it would seem to be a different voice that commands the first voice. Perhaps this is John’s commission – perhaps it is another commission of Isaiah.
  2. Whether or not this is John’s commission, this was certainly his message. The idea is simple: life is fragile & fleeting, and God’s people need to be prepared to see Him. This was precisely what John proclaimed. Luke 3:8–9, “(8) Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. (9) And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”” [] There was a judgment coming (which Jesus would bring), and people needed to be ready!
  3. BTW – notice what does last forever: “the word of our God.” There will be all sorts of people come & go. There will be all sorts of ideas & philosophies. There will be moves of atheists, skeptics, and false teachers. But God’s word will never fade away or falter. It can be trusted, no matter what!
  • Behold the Lord (vss. 9-20)

9 O Zion, You who bring good tidings, Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, You who bring good tidings, Lift up your voice with strength, Lift it up, be not afraid; Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

  1. Good news isn’t only TO Jerusalem, but it comes FROM Jerusalem. Zion was to proclaim good news to all the nation of Judah. The good news of what? The coming of God!
  2. Objection: “But Jerusalem rejected Jesus the first time!” They rejoiced over Him on Palm Sunday, and then arrested Him and sent Him to the cross four days later. They had the opportunity to proclaim the Lord to all the land, but they failed. However, that will not be their only opportunity to receive the Lord. They will see Jesus in all His glory as He returns in judgment. During the Great Tribulation, the nation of Israel will be used by God to proclaim the message of the gospel to all the world. There will be two particular prophets who stand in Jerusalem and preach the good news (who will be persecuted & unharmed until God allows them to be killed & resurrected – Rev 11). Beyond them, the Jewish people as a whole will have come to Christ, and they will be witnesses of Jesus everywhere they go – even as they are persecuted into the wilderness (Rev 12).
  3. Interestingly, when this passage was translated into Greek for the LXX, the language used is the same language used to describe the gospel. Truly, this is what evangelism is! We who know Jesus as Lord turn to all the people who surround us, and we lift our voices with strength to proclaim “Behold your God!” Know Jesus as the Lord, and come to Him in all of His love, forgiveness, and grace. Jesus offers comfort to all who would turn to Him – but He must be proclaimed to people in order for them TO turn!
  4. Affirming that Isaiah is looking forward to the 2nd coming of Christ, he goes on to describe the rule of the Messiah. 

10 Behold, the Lord GOD shall come with a strong hand, And His arm shall rule for Him; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him. 11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.

  1. Glorious contrast. The Reigning Lord God is simultaneously the strong King and the loving and compassionate Good Shepherd. It is a contrast, but not a conflict nor contradiction. Some people have a tough time reconciling these different aspects of Christ Jesus, but the Bible has no such trouble. It unashamedly shows Jesus both in His power and His grace. These two things go hand-in-hand.
  2. First, note who it is that comes: “the Lord GOD.” It is God Himself who comes in the role of the King, which tells us something extraordinarily important: the Messiah is no ordinary human son of David. This is God Himself, who must also be the Son of David in order to fulfill the covenant promises. This would have been mysterious (and likely confusing) to the Jews. After all, how could a human reign as King as well as God reigning as King? It would seem to be impossible until we see Jesus – 100% human AND 100% God. In Christ, the Son of David reigns as a Man according to the covenant, and God Himself reigns as God according to the prophecy. Jesus perfectly fulfills it all!
  3. When Jesus comes, He does not come empty-handed. He brings His “reward” with Him. The Messiah will reward the faithful with salvation and life within the Kingdom – and He will reward the wicked with death. Interestingly, the scholars who translated the LXX used the word for “wage” to translate the Hebrew we have as “reward.” The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23) – it is the just reward of those who have sinned against Almighty God. 
  4. Jesus’ reward shows His strength, but His loving grace is also on display. He cares for His own people, not merely ruling over them – but providing for their every need in compassionate tenderness. Jesus is glorious AND He is still as loving beyond our imagination. He is the Good Shepherd (Jn 10:11,14)…and He will always be the Good Shepherd. Simply because Jesus is coming back in power and might does not change His nature and grace.
    1. This is our God & King! This is Whom we trust!
  5. If all of this speaks of Jesus in His reign, what follows is Jesus in His infinite wonder as God. 

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, Measured heaven with a span And calculated the dust of the earth in a measure? Weighed the mountains in scales And the hills in a balance?

  1. God is the Creator. This same God who is to be beheld as He comes to reign in Zion is the same God who created the heavens and the earth. He is infinitely beyond His creation – able to measure the dust of the earth & the gallons of water in the sea.
  2. He is infinitely powerful! And He is infinitely wise. 

13 Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has taught Him? 14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him, And taught Him in the path of justice? Who taught Him knowledge, And showed Him the way of understanding?

  1. Who is God’s teacher? Does God require tutoring in any subject? What is it of which God is not aware? He knows all things at all times. He knows all people. He knows all history & all future. There is not even any possibility of which He is not aware because He already knows the outcome. Contextually, God is totally independent of the need for counsel. WE need counsel; GOD is the counselor.
  2. It’s when we stop to think about this that we might realize how ridiculous some of our prayers might seem from time to time. As if God needs our advice on any given subject. Of course we can be free to pray to God, telling Him our preferences & laying all our requests before Him. But to think that we might know better than God on any given situation is absurd!

15 Behold, the nations are as a drop in a bucket, And are counted as the small dust on the scales; Look, He lifts up the isles as a very little thing. 16 And Lebanon is not sufficient to burn, Nor its beasts sufficient for a burnt offering. 17 All nations before Him are as nothing, And they are counted by Him less than nothing and worthless.

  1. Not only is God infinitely beyond the created universe (waters, dust, mountains, etc.), He’s certainly beyond the much smaller nations of the world. The nations pale in comparison to Creation; they are nothing in comparison with Almighty God! The empires of the world puff themselves up in pride, but it is foolish boasting when we behold the incomparable God!
  2. The nations of the world cannot even offer a sufficient sacrifice unto the Lord. Even if they burned all the forests of Lebanon and shed the blood of every animal on the planet, it would not be enough. God is far too holy – our sin is far too great – there is no single thing that we can do to satisfy the need for sacrifice unto God. What we bring is “less than nothing and worthless.
    1. With that in mind, consider the sacrifice of Jesus at the cross. All the forests & all the animals are insufficient, and it would take an incredible amount of time just to offer the sacrifices. Yet with Jesus, it was ONE sacrifice at ONE time, and it was enough for ALL people throughout ALL history. Jesus perfectly satisfies the infinite wrath of God because Jesus is infinitely worthy AS God!

18 To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him? 19 The workman molds an image, The goldsmith overspreads it with gold, And the silversmith casts silver chains. 20 Whoever is too impoverished for such a contribution Chooses a tree that will not rot; He seeks for himself a skillful workman To prepare a carved image that will not totter.

  1. This is the futility of idolatry. Pagan religion create statues and other images in order that the god they cannot see might be compared to something they CAN see, and be worshipped. But to what can God be compared? Nothing! If God is truly beyond all creation, beyond all knowledge, and beyond all nations – what then is our frame of reference for comparison? God is beyond ALL! He is indescribable in His glory and worth…
  2. The idolator chooses a tree to cover with gold and silver for a statue to which he can bow, but as artistic as they can make it, it still fails. The tree will rot, and it certainly is no god if it has been formed by a mere man. It is illogical and worthless on all accounts. 
  3. God does something far better in Christ Jesus! Knowing that God cannot be compared or contained in an image of man, what did God do? He came AS a Man, walking among us & dwelling among us as God. We cannot approach Him, so He approached us in His grace.
    1. And on top of it all, Jesus didn’t rot like the idols made of wood. Idols of all sort fade over time as they corrode and corrupt, but not Jesus. Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), but unlike these other images, Jesus never faced corruption or decay. He was laid in a tomb, but only for 3 days…He rose!
  • Have you seen & heard? (vss. 21-31)

21 Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? 22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth, And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers, Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in. 23 He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.

  1. The existence and character of God ought to be obvious to all. It’s a good question: how can you not understand the testimony of Creation about its Creator? To those who would form idols and worship the things of their hands, how could they ignore what was so obviously around us that points to the magnificence and the glory of God? 
  2. Paul makes a similar statement as he opens the book of Romans: Romans 1:20–23, “(20) For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, (21) because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (22) Professing to be wise, they became fools, (23) and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man—and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.” [] God has clearly shown Himself…
  3. Specifically, Isaiah shows the transcendence of the Lord God. God is above all the land – above all people – above all space & heavens – above all powers and princes. As Isaiah had shown earlier, God is the overwhelming infinite God. He is incomparable, and as majestic as some of these earthly (and heavenly) things might be to our eyes and imaginations, they are nothing in comparison to the Almighty God.
  4. BTW – notice that God “sits above the circle of the earth.” What is a circle in 3 dimensions? A sphere. When speaking of the earth, the Bible does not imagine a flat rectangular map (as skeptics might claim it does). Instead, it uses terminology both understandable to ancient minds, and scientifically accurate. The Bible never claims to be a science textbook, but when it speaks on science and nature (as well as any other subject), we can be sure it is accurate. (Even the phrase “stretches out the heavens like a curtain” seems to refer to the expanding nature of the universe.)

24 Scarcely shall they be planted, Scarcely shall they be sown, Scarcely shall their stock take root in the earth, When He will also blow on them, And they will wither, And the whirlwind will take them away like stubble.

  1. Regarding the princes & judges in vs. 23, Isaiah expands the thought of how God brings them to nothing. They might think of themselves as powerful (and other people might concede that they ARE powerful in their own culture), but their power is only temporary and minor. Even the greatest of earthly kings only has influence over his own empire, and it lasts until either the day of his death or removal. No power held by man (not even that of judges who serve for life) is eternal. Their life will barely take root when God will uproot them by His breath of judgment.
  2. For the nation of Judah, which was facing 70 years of captivity by the empire of Babylon, this would have been a welcome reminder! God outlasts the most powerful of nations & the long-lasting of empires. All of that is a drop in the bucket compared with God.
  3. This ought to be a welcome reminder to us, as well. We live in days in which it would seem that leaders sin with impunity and judges rule unjustly. God is neither blind to it nor incompetent to deal with it. He WILL judge, “and they will wither.

25 “To whom then will you liken Me, Or to whom shall I be equal?” says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, Who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, By the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; Not one is missing.

  1. The Lord God (OUR God) is unparalleled! This is the Creator God – this is the God who knows the stars and the angels by name and number. This is the All Powerful God, and there is none like Him. There is no prince that can overpower Him – there is no philosopher that can outsmart Him – there is no circumstance that is too difficult for Him to handle. After all, this is GOD. He is above all these things.
  2. This is the God to whom we are to look in worship and wonder. This is the God to whom we’ve been invited to pray. This is the God with whom we’ve been brought into relationship through the grace of Jesus Christ. Have we so quickly forgotten? Have the circumstances we endure so quickly overpowered our faith? Are our trials that all-encompassing? Of course not. As the call went out to Judah: “Lift up your eyes on high!” Remember who it is that we serve!
  3. That was the same problem Jerusalem & all the Jews. In their captivity, they would start to believe that they had been forgotten by God. They were no longer lifting their eyes in hope, but casting them down in despair. They needed to remember their God knew them & loved them & had a promise and a plan for them!

27 Why do you say, O Jacob, And speak, O Israel: “My way is hidden from the LORD, And my just claim is passed over by my God”? 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.

  1. God had not forgotten them! Did they not know that God is always vigilant? That God is always mighty and just? He is the everlasting God – He is their covenant LORD – He is the creator God & He knew them all, never tiring in His care for His people, nor blind as to what they were enduring. In the midst of it all, God was still their God…and He would help them.

29 He gives power to the weak, And to those who have no might He increases strength. 30 Even the youths shall faint and be weary, And the young men shall utterly fall, 31 But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, They shall run and not be weary, They shall walk and not faint.

  1. Where they were weak, God would make them strong. When they were faint, God would lift them up. All they needed to do was to “wait on the LORD.” They needed to entrust themselves to Him, knowing that the All-powerful God was THEIR God, and He would care for them. The all-powerful God would give power, and it would be precisely what the people needed to endure.

Conclusion:

Of course this takes us back to vs. 1. This is the comforting news of the Lord that was to be declared to all the people. Even in their suffering, God was their God and they were His people. Their God was coming to them to reign over them & to comfort them – He was coming with strength and justice. All they needed to do in the meantime was wait in faith – they needed to trust God to BE God…to trust the Messiah to be everything that He promised to be.

And the good news is: He is! Jesus is exactly everything He is declared to be! He is the Creator God – the almighty ruler of the heavens and earth – the just Judge over all the world – the Good Shepherd tenderly caring for His people. He gives strength and grace to those who are in need…but we must trust Him. We cannot receive His grace if we refuse to entrust ourselves to Him.

There are too many Christians who run and DO grow weary, faint while they walk, etc. They get tired as they struggle against sin. They’ve burdened themselves through legalism. They’ve ache in depression as they suffer trials. Like the marathon runner who has hit the “wall” and can lift his/her feet no longer, they are weak & they need a supernatural impartation of strength if they are to endure.

Remember whom it is we serve! Remember the promises we have in Christ! 

God with Us: The Best Gift

Posted: December 24, 2017 in Isaiah, Uncategorized
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Isaiah 7:14, “God with Us: The Best Gift”

Ask any kid, and the best part of Christmas are the presents. They’re checking the tree every day to see what’s new, and what name tag is on the packages. They’re examining the size & weight of the boxes. They’re staying up as late as possible on Christmas Eve, and coming down as early as possible on Christmas morning. For most kids, the food may be nice, and it’s always great to have time off from school, but in the end, it’s all about the gifts.

It’s often said that the best gifts are the ones we make. After all, when we put time into a present, we give a little bit of ourselves. Maybe you write a letter – record a song – paint a picture – or give an experience of some sort in which you can spend time with your loved one. Those things are what bring the best memories – those are the gifts that will be treasured & long-remembered.

But all of this leads to an obvious question: Why do we give gifts at Christmas, anyway? When looking at the Christmas story, we might think of the wise men (magi), who brought presents to the Baby Jesus. As far as we know, they were the first to present gifts to the Christ Child and the Holy Family, bringing with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh (symbols of Jesus’ royalty, priesthood, and death). Even so, the Magi weren’t present at His birth…they likely didn’t see Jesus until He was 2-3 years old, arriving when He was a “young child” (Mt 2:11). Actually, if we’re looking for the very first Christmas gift, the first gift wasn’t given by men at all. The original Christmas gift was Christ. God gave His Son to the world, and thus gave Himself. The only begotten Son of God was not “made,” but He certainly “made” Himself into a Man, and came to live among us.

This had been prophesied long ago, and was quoted by an angel to Joseph when Joseph was struggling in his heart what to do about his betrothed (engaged) wife-to-be, Mary, who was found to be suddenly pregnant before she and Joseph got married. In a dream one night, an angel of God appeared to Joseph, telling him not to fear, but to walk in faith.

Matthew 1:20–23, “(20) But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. (21) And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (22) So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: (23) “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.””

Of course, we know the history: Joseph did take Mary as his wife, and she did bear a Son, whose name was Jesus. (“Jesus” = Yahweh saves)

But what about that original prophecy? The apostle Matthew notes that this had been done to fulfill God’s promise through the prophet – but what was that original prophecy? The angel quoted it directly from the book of Isaiah:

Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Of course, no Scripture comes out of nowhere, so we need to know the original context. Isaiah’s prophetic ministry began the same year one of the very best kings of Judah died. His son and grandson who followed in his footsteps were not nearly so good, and the current king (Ahaz) had no trust in God, and did not fear/worship God at all. 2 Kings 16 tells us that Ahaz was so evil, that he even engaged in child sacrifice and other pagan ways of the people who lived in the land before the Hebrews. Even so, he was the king of Judah, and the heir of King David. So when the kings of Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) made war against Judah, God offered to help King Ahaz, as evil as he was. God would honor His promise to David, even if David’s descendant was unworthy.

Of course, Ahaz wasn’t looking to God – he was looking to his own ability to make a deal through political alliances, and sent to the kingdom of Assyria for help. (This would end up being his downfall.) But God did offer to help Ahaz, and as a guarantee, God told Ahaz to ask for a sign that would confirm God’s work on his behalf. Ahaz refused, pretending that it was sinful to ask God for a sign…but really, he just lacked the faith. Ahaz didn’t want to trust God, so he didn’t want any reason to trust God. That’s when God said He would give Ahaz a reason, even if he didn’t want one! God Himself would give a sign: the Child Immanuel…the promise of Isaiah 7:14. Because God would do this, Ahaz (and all of the kingdom of Judah) could know that God would deliver Judah from Syria. Judah would survive, because the Messiah (Immanuel) would need to be born. God would be good to all of His promises.

Of course, in the gift of Immanuel, God looked to something far bigger than the temporary deliverance of Israel from Syria: He looked to the deliverance of mankind from sin & death. Political enemies are temporary; death lasts forever. Sin carries eternal consequences, and it is from those things we need saving. God provides His salvation through Immanuel. (Which was affirmed again from the angel to Joseph.) What is included in this promise of the original Christmas present? Four basic things: (1) God gives the gift, (2) God gives proof, (3) God gives a miracle, (4) God gives Himself.

First, God gives the gift. His personal involvement is emphasized. When the prophecy says that “the Lord Himself will give a sign,” the Hebrew is emphatic on the “Himself.” God doesn’t outsource the work – He doesn’t delegate His salvation. When it comes to the most important work in the history of the world, God is personally involved. To put it another way, when a Christian says “God saved me,” that’s exactly what happened: God saved you. The Almighty Creator God – the One who knows every star by name and has the number of hair follicles on your head counted – that God personally did what was necessary to bring about your salvation. He knew what needed to be done, and did it.

Second, God gives a sign, meaning that He gives proof. When it came to the earthly ministry of Jesus, He performed all kinds of signs, providing abundant proof that He is exactly who He said He is. The only way a Man can turn water into wine, calm a stormy sea, create bread and fish from thin air, raise the dead, etc., is if He is a Man who is also God. All those signs are proofs. Likewise here with the sign of Immanuel. Just as Ahaz didn’t have to guess at the fact that God would deliver Judah, the Hebrew people as a whole didn’t have to guess at the fact that God would bring forth the Messiah. In the same way, we don’t have to guess at the sufficiency of His work for us. How do we know that God conquers death & sin? Because He provided proof – He provided a sign.

Third, God gives a miracle. What was the sign? A virgin would give birth to a Son. Many women have given birth through history – a birth by itself is not unusual in the slightest. Yet all of those births require basic biology: there needs to be a mother and a father. For this particular birth, in order for it to be a sign, there would be only a mother. She would be a virgin, having no physical relationship with a man. The only Father would be the Heavenly Father: God Himself.

  • This actually goes back to an earlier promise…all the way back to the Garden of Eden. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden after their temptation by the serpent (Satan), God not only pronounced the death that was the earned wage of sin, but He also pronounced a curse upon the Devil. Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel.” The “seed” of the woman is a subtle reference to a virgin birth. Normally, offspring is listed as that of the father (and “seed” carries with it biological implications). For the focus of the prophecy to be upon the woman’s seed, it leads directly to the later prophecy of the virgin birth. 

Fourth, God gives Himself. The promised Son was the gift. He is “God with us.” Although we call Jesus “Immanuel,” as a direct transliteration from the Greek (Ἐμμανουήλ), the Hebrew is literally two words that make up the phrase “God with us,” (עִמָּ֥נוּ אֵֽל). He is the Creator God of all the Universe, but He did not stay remote from us in the universe. He is not the “Divine Watchmaker” who set everything in motion and then set it all aside, nor is He a cruel taskmaster who plays with His creation like a bunch of toys. He is God-with-us, come to be among us, that we might forever be with Him.

  • God with us: as Man. The Incarnation never ceases to amaze me. Almighty Infinite God became flesh. The Perfect God in the midst of His glory put all of it aside to come be with us in all the discomforts of this world. The God who never gets hungry needed to be fed. The God who never slumbers needed to sleep. God the Son humbled Himself to the point that He put up with even the gross stuff of humanity. Prior to Bethlehem, when did the Son ever need to go to the bathroom? He came to be with us…He came to be one of us…amazing!
  • God with us: as Savior. As the angel announced to Joseph, the Son of God was to be named “Jesus” because He would save people from sin. We need saving, and Jesus does it! There was no way we could be saved, unless Jesus came, so He came. How so? The Bible tells us that the wages of sin is death, so that means our sin has earned each & every one of us death sentences, because we have committed treason against our Creator God. It’s impossible for us to pay the price and live – animal sacrifices merely postpone the inevitable, pushing it off until later – another person cannot die in our place because he/she has sin of their own to deal with. Only the perfect Son of God can do it! Jesus came to be with us as a Man in order that He might go to the cross as an exact substitute, standing in the place of every man, woman, and child in history. The only Man who had no sin became sin in our place, that we could receive the gift of life. He came to save!
  • God with us: as Lord. Jesus humbled Himself in order to be born – He continued His humility to the point of torturous death on the cross…but three days beyond that, He rose to life in glory! Jesus lives today, and He has been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Jesus sits today at the right hand of God the Father, preparing for the day in which He will return as King of kings and Lord of lords. A day is coming in which He will first call His church home to be with Him personally, and then the world will experience the wrath of God in a way it has never known. It will conclude with Jesus’ physical return as He sets up an earthly kingdom that will last for 1000 years, transitioning into a new heaven and new earth that will last for all eternity. King Jesus will rule over it all, with us forever at His side. He will always be human, and He will always be God-with-us, and we will always be with Him.

Conclusion:

How amazing that God would come dwell with us! We need to be with God, but can’t. So instead, He came to us. He came as one of us, to save us, in order that we might forever be with Him in His kingdom. There’s a word for that: grace. Grace is a gift, and at Christmas, we celebrate the best gift given to all mankind: the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus is a gift (THE gift), and He is a gift with a purpose: life.

John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Though our sin earns the wage of death, God doesn’t want us to die. He doesn’t desire that anyone perish. God’s desire is that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth of Jesus. Anyone can be forgiven of his/her sin – anyone can be saved and have God’s own personal guarantee of going to heaven in eternal life. All we need to do is believe upon Jesus, the Son of God. 

Repent: turn away from your sins, admitting them for what they are, but leaving them in the past. And as you turn away from sin, turn to Jesus in faith. Believe Him to be the Son of God who died for your sins at the cross and rose from the grave in victory. And then tell Him…receive Him into your life as your own Savior & Lord. Just like any present needs to be opened to be received, we need to respond to the gift of Jesus, by telling Him of our faith and asking Him to save us.

Have you received the original Christmas gift? Have you received Jesus? Don’t let another Christmas pass you by without knowing the true reason for celebration. In the end, it’s not about Santa Claus, brightly wrapped gifts, Christmas trees, or even Christmas dinner; it’s about Jesus. The Gift has been given…you just need to receive it.

Receive “God with us,” Immanuel!

The Messianic Prophet, part 1

Posted: June 22, 2015 in Isaiah, Route 66

Route 66: Isaiah, “The Messianic Prophet, part 1”

“The Lord is Salvation.”  Not only is that the gospel message, it is the translation of Isaiah’s name.  No Old Testament prophet is quoted as extensively in the New Testament as Isaiah, and hardly any prophet points as clearly to the Lord Jesus as does Isaiah.  Truly he is a gospel-centered prophet – one who looks forward to the Messiah to come: once in suffering, and again in glory.

The prophecies of Isaiah are indeed well-known among Christians…at least some of them.  Many Christians can quote portions of the Immanuel prophecy (while humming along to Handel’s Messiah), or portions of the Song of the Suffering Servant (while remembering Communion) – others clearly remember Isaiah’s vision of the Lord’s glory when he was commissioned to be a prophet.

Less known are his many prophecies of judgment.  God had much to say through Isaiah to the entire world: starting with Jerusalem and Judah, but leading out to the rest of the Gentile nations.  God was well aware of the sins of men, and He made it clear that His wrath would be poured out.  Yet along with the promise of God’s judgment is the promise of God’s grace.  God’s sovereign plans for eternity not only included the Jews as His chosen people, but also the Gentiles.  The Messiah who was to come would reign over the entire world, and one day all the nations would worship the One True God as God.

That’s a big message!  And it’s contained in a big book: the book of Isaiah.

BACKGROUND:
Isaiah actually begins a new section in the organization of our Old Testaments:

  • Pentateuch: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy
  • History: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra. Nehemiah, Esther
  • Wisdom: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon
  • Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel
  • Minor Prophets: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi.

The difference between the “Major” and “Minor” prophets is primarily one of size; not so much content.  Certainly the message of Zechariah is just as breathed-out by God as are the words of Jeremiah – but the divisions are helpful in knowing our Bibles better.  In any case, Isaiah begins the broader section known as “the Prophets,” and although his book is not the longest, it could be argued that it is definitely the grandest, which is the reason for its placement as first.

The prophet himself is known as the son of Amoz, and per 1:1 had a ministry that stretched over the course of several kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah.  This places Isaiah in the latter half of the life of the Southern Kingdom.  During his ministry, he witnessed the fall of Israel to the north, and their fall served as a dramatic (and ultimately unheeded) warning to the Jews of the south not to follow in their footsteps.  Just as Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire, so would Judah be conquered by the Babylonian empire, something that was still several decades in the future.  Yet Isaiah clearly warned of this fate – just as much as he also wrote of God’s promised mercy and redemption that would come after Babylon.

It’s Isaiah’s specificity in prophecy that is the source of so much contention for liberal scholars today.  Up until modern times, there was virtual unanimity among scholars that the book of Isaiah is a cohesive whole, written by one person somewhere in the range of the 8th Century BC.  Yet because Isaiah wrote so specifically about events that followed nearly 200 years later regarding Cyrus of Persia (not to mention the specific prophecies of Jesus as the Suffering Servant!), many modern scholars cannot conceive of the notion of the book being written by one man.  The problem with this line of thinking is that it completely leaves out God.  Isaiah penned the words, but God is the One who gave the words.  God is beyond time – God is sovereign over time.  There is nothing that God does not know about the future.  If God chose to reveal events 200 years in the future – 700 years in the future – 3000 years in the future, that is perfectly within the ability of God to do.  To rob Isaiah of complete authorship of this book is to rob the book of its meaning entirely.  God saw what was going to happen, and God revealed it to Isaiah.  Through these writings, we see (what was) future prophecy fulfilled in past history, and that gives us the assurance that the things that are still yet unfulfilled will be fulfilled in time to come.

The Bible itself affirms the unity of the book of Isaiah.  As mentioned, he is the most quoted prophet throughout the New Testament, and his quotes are not limited to a certain early time period of his writings.  Even Jesus affirmed Isaiah’s authorship, when He opened up the scroll of Isaiah at the beginning of His own ministry and quoted from Ch 61:1-3 (Lk 4:18-19).  For Jesus, Isaiah wrote the end as well as the beginning of his book – and that ought to be enough proof to set the debate to rest.

Interestingly, archaeology also bears out the unity (and historical preservation) of the book.  The famed discovery at Qumran had among its treasures a nearly-intact Isaiah scroll.  Not only does this demonstrate that ancient Jews possessed the entire book as passed down to them through the centuries, but also shows that passages concerning the Messiah were not later changed by Christian believers in the 1st century.  Isaiah 53 reads from the Qumran scroll exactly as it does in our Bibles today.  The prophecies concerning Jesus were true prophecies, truly fulfilled in His life and ministry – not a later invention made up in an attempt to find “backwards” support in the Scripture.

SIGNIFICANCE
It is the great amount of prophecy surrounding Jesus that is of greatest significance to the Christian today.  Jesus is (among other things) prophesied to come through a virgin birth (7:14), to be given the right to rule Israel (9:6), to be the Spirit-empowered Son of David (11:1-2), to be rejected by the nation (53:3), to be the substitutionary sacrifice for men (53:4-5), to be sent with the gospel ministry of good tidings (61:1), and to be the Judge of all the earth (63:2-3).  The prophecies of Isaiah paint Jesus in full-color, taking Him from His first coming in humility to His second coming in glory.  Jesus is portrayed as the ruler of the restored Millennial Kingdom – the true Son of David, ruling as Israel’s perfect King & not only ruling over Israel, but all the world.

It is Isaiah’s abundant writing about the future kingdom that is also of immense significance to the Christian.  Isaiah provides some of the greatest amount of detail about the Millennial Kingdom that is found in the Old Testament (perhaps apart from Ezekiel).  It is in Isaiah that we learn that the historical enemy of Israel, Egypt, will one day be allied with Israel & even worship the God of Israel (19:21).  It is in Isaiah how we read of how at Jesus’ 2nd Coming the stars of heaven will be dissolved and the heavens will be rolled up like a scroll (34:4).  Isaiah wrote of the time that every knee would one day bow to God, and every tongue confess in the Lord (45:23-24).  He wrote of the time that children would live hundreds of years (65:20) & the wolves and lambs would lie down together in peace (65:25).  Isaiah even wrote the most common description of hell, oft-quoted by Jesus as being the place where the worm does not die & the fire is not quenched (66:24).  Truly Isaiah looked to the Millennial Kingdom & beyond!

What does all of this mean for the Christian?  It means this is not a book we can ignore!  This is not a book from which we should only read a few key sections.  This is a book that points us clearly to the work of God: what He has done in the past – what He has done through Jesus – what He has yet to do through Jesus.  THAT’s worth paying attention to!

GENERAL OUTLINE
Like many books of the Bible, it’s rare to find two scholars that totally agree on the precise organization of a book.  There is however, general agreement on two major divisions: (1) A book of judgment, and (2) a book of Comfort.  The difference between the two sections is so drastic, that this is the cause for modern liberal scholars to debate the unity of the book.  But again, the Bible affirms the unity of Isaiah.  Internally and externally, there is abundant evidence that one man penned the entire book.  It’s just that God gave Isaiah differing messages to write as time progressed.  God’s judgment certainly needed to be proclaimed, but God did not only have judgment in mind for His people.  He also had a plan for their redemption, and that’s what He had Isaiah pen in the last third of the book.

The Book of Judgment (1-39)

  • The Ministry Begins (1-6)
  • Israel, Assyria, and Immanuel (7-12)
  • Burdens Against the Nations (13-24)
  • Praise Break (25-27)
  • National Woes and Glory (28-35)
  • Historical Interlude (36-39)

The Book of Comfort (40-66)

  • The Promise for Israel (40-48)
  • The Person of Redemption (49-57)
  • Final Salvation & Judgment (58-66)

(Will point out occasional quotes in the NT…not a comprehensive listing)

The Book of Judgment (1-39)
The Ministry Begins (1-6)

  • Opening vision: appeal to wicked Israel (1).  God paints a tragically real picture of Israel, as a “people laden with iniquity,” (1:4) and appeals to them to repent.  They had become hypocritical, to the point that God hated their religious shows of “New Moons and appointed feasts,” (1:14).  Instead of the false, God appealed to them to truly repent.  Isaiah 1:16–17, "(16) “Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, (17) Learn to do good; Seek justice, Rebuke the oppressor; Defend the fatherless, Plead for the widow."  Real repentance isn’t found in mere words, but in sincere works.  It’s found in changing not only our minds, but our direction.  That’s what God called Israel to do, freely inviting them to come and reason with Him (1:18), to be made clean by His grace.  (The same invitation is available to all through Jesus Christ!)  If Israel refused to act, they could be sure God would indeed act in both judgment and redemption.
  • Vision of the latter days of Judah (2:1 – 4:6).  Isaiah prophesies of a time of peace, once in which people walk in the way of God.  This isn’t so much the return from Babylon (though it could be somewhat in view), but the restoration of the kingdom during the Millennium.  This is a time that many people from many nations desire to go to the mountain of the Lord (2:3), when God personally judges between the nations & swords are beaten into plowshares (2:4).  God had promised it for the latter days, and it will indeed come to pass!  Of course before the days of blessing would be days of judgment and mourning, and God foretold a time that Jerusalem would be stumbled & Judah fallen because of their provocation of God (3:8).  In that day, it would be harsh – but that day would not last forever.  The Branch of the Lord (4:2) would appear in the worst of the tribulation and the filth of Zion will be purged (4:4)
  • The parable of the Vineyard (5).  God spoke of His nation as a vineyard well-prepared by Him, that sprung up wild grapes instead of the good fruit He intended. (5:2)  This same parable was later adapted by Jesus in His condemnation of the Pharisees (Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers – Mt 21:33-45).  In both cases, the idea is the same: the people sinned against God and earned their own judgment.  They had rejected the law of the Lord & despised the Holy One of Israel (5:24), and God would turn His anger upon them.
    • Thankfully, it is God’s anger upon us that is turned away by Jesus Christ!  We utterly deserve His wrath, but we receive His grace because Jesus served as our propitiation – the satisfaction of God’s deserved anger.  All people everywhere have access to this same grace (even the Jews) – all they need do is turn to Jesus in faith.
  • Isaiah’s calling (6).  In one of the most famous passages from Isaiah, he writes of the vision he received when first called by the Lord into ministry.  He saw the Lord God in all His glory, and pronounced woe upon himself, painfully aware of his own sin (6:5).  God purged his sin, and as God asked for someone willing to go on God’s behalf, Isaiah cried out “Here am I! Send me.” (6:8)  God gave Isaiah a difficult ministry: a prophetic ministry destined to be ignored by the people to which he was sent.  The same challenge faced by Isaiah was faced by Jesus as He proclaimed the gospel to the Jews of Judea.
    • 6:9 quoted in Mt 13:14, Mk 4:12, Lk 8:10, Jn 12:39, Acts 28:25 (dull heart, heavy ears, shut eyes)
    • Why did God use Isaiah?  Because Isaiah was willing to be used.  So often we ask God to use us, but we’re not willing to step out in faith and be used.  Be willing!  Be available!  God uses those who make themselves available to Him.

Israel, Assyria, and Immanuel (7-12)

  • God’s promise to Ahaz (7). The nations of Syria and Israel had allied themselves against Judah, and God sent Isaiah with a message to King Ahaz telling him not to fear the coming attack.  Though Ahaz was a wicked king, God promised to preserve His people, even promising to give Ahaz a sign that He would do it.  Despite God’s invitation, Ahaz did not have the faith to ask for a sign (under a guise of false piety), and although God rebuked Ahaz, He gave a sign anyway: Immanuel.  The virgin would bear a Child, and that was the sign that God would protect His people. [7:12 quoted in Mt 1:23 (Virgin with child)]
    • Question: how was the promise of a virgin-born Child a current sign for ancient Judah in their struggle?  Answer: Ancient Judah actually would be attacked; it just wouldn’t be destroyed (as Syria and Israel intended to do).  God would preserve His Messianic promise – He would preserve the lineage of David – and the promise of this is found in the birth of Jesus Christ.
    • God keeps every promise He makes!  His word is sure – especially His word in Christ Jesus!
  • Assyria’s invasion as God’s judgment (8).  Although Isaiah was primarily a prophet for the southern kingdom of Judah, God also gave him visions about the northern kingdom of Israel.  The Davidic line in the south would be preserved, but the northern kingdom itself would be overrun by the king of Assyria (8:7).  Assyria would even come down to Judah, though Judah would not be conquered.  Why did God allow this to happen to His people?  In order that they would turn back to God in worship and fear (8:12-13).
    • 8:14 quoted in 1 Peter 2:8, Rom 9:33 (Stone of stumbling)
  • Immanuel’s government (9:1-7).  9:1 quoted in Mt 4:15 (light in darkness) – this is a direct prophecy about the ministry of Immanuel/Jesus.  This addressed His 1st coming, while 9:6 [quoted in Mt 1:23 (child shall be born)] addresses more of His total ministry, including His 2nd coming.  Jesus is indeed the Child who was born, but the Government is not yet fully upon His shoulder. (It will be!)
  • Judgment on Samaria & Assyria (9:8 – 10:19).  Samaria (also known as Israel) was due the anger of God (8:12), as their prophets lied & leaders caused their people to err (8:15-16).  They would be delivered into the hands of their enemies: particularly Assyria.  Yet Assyria, though used as the rod of God’s anger (10:5) would also be judged.  God had seen their wickedness, and they would be punished (10:12).
    • God punishes sin wherever it is found!  No matter what race, nationality, or creed.  The only escape we have from the judgment of God is being found by faith in Christ Jesus.  Jesus has already been punished on our behalf.
  • God’s promise to Israel (10:20-34).  Interestingly, God referred earlier to the punishment of Samaria, but He refers here to the restoration and “remnant of Israel.” (10:20)  There were a few who remained faithful to God (He always has a remnant – a thought upon which Paul picks up on in Romans).  Ultimately, God would preserve His people, and though as a nation they would be conquered, God would not allow them to be wiped from the face of the earth.  God spoke of a day that their burden would be taken from their shoulder (10:27), just as Paul writes that one day all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26).
  • Worldwide reign of Immanuel (11).  So much of Ch 11 could be said of Jesus right now, in that He is indeed the Rod from the Stem of Jesse (11:1), and the seven-fold Spirit of the Lord is upon Him (11:2, Rev 5:6).  At the same time, most of Ch 11 looks forward to the future reign of Jesus, truly as Immanuel (God with us), the One who dwells on earth as the Millennial King.  He will judge with righteousness (11:4), and institute a time of worldwide peace with the curse of Adam basically reversed (11:6-7).  All the nations will come and worship, and it will be wonderful!
  • Hymn of praise (12).  It’s no wonder Isaiah breaks into song after the description of Immanuel!  Singing on behalf of the whole nation in that latter day, he recognizes that God once was angry with His people, but now God comforts them (12:1).  God is their salvation (12:2).  God is to be praised among the whole earth, for God physically dwells with His people in Zion (12:6).
    • How wonderful a day that will be!  Can you imagine it?  We will look upon Jesus – dwell with Jesus – walk with Jesus – not figuratively, but literally.  We will dwell with our Lord, King, Savior, and God!

Burdens Against the Nations (13-24).  Due to the vast listing (and somewhat repetitive nature), we’ll cover these rather quickly… [MAP]

  • Against Babylon (13:1 – 14:23).  Some have suggested that Isaiah truly refers to Assyria here, in that Assyria was the more immediate threat to Judah at the time.  Yet the text plainly refers to Babylon multiple times.  To pronounce judgments upon an empire that does not yet exist is not out of the ordinary for the all-knowing God.  He is perfectly within His right to do so.
    • Interestingly, in the midst of this literal prophecy against Babylon seems to be a more symbolic reference to Satan, speaking of how Lucifer once dwelled with God, and fell from his place of glory. (14:12-21)  Perhaps there is a bit of dual-fulfillment here, but there is definitely a sense that we get a bit of background of our great enemy who still seeks to disrupt the plan of God & to seek, kill, and destroy.  God has dealt with Satan in the past, and God will continue to deal with him in the future.  Satan is to be viewed realistically, but he is not to be feared.  Our God is infinitely stronger than him!
  • Against Assyria & Philistia (14:24-32).  Like Babylon, Assyria is also mentioned by name (another reason to maintain a distinction between them), and God pronounces His intent to break them in “My land,” (14:24) – perhaps a reference to the angel of God’s defeat of the Assyrian army of Sennacherib.  The nation of Philistia is also denounced for their rejoicing of the death of the king of Judah (14:29).
  • Against Moab (15-16).  This tiny nation has two chapters devoted to its judgment.  We know little about the cities and towns listed, but it is obvious that God knew them well.  He reaches out even to this Gentile people (a traditional enemy of Israel) that they might repent.
  • Against Syria & Israel (17).  Syria, specifically listed as Damascus, is prophesied a terrible judgment that it would “cease from being a city.” (17:1)  Damascus is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world, so this is a prophecy that is yet to be fulfilled to the utmost.  The northern kingdom of Israel is included in their judgment, because they had forgotten the God of their salvation (17:10)
  • Against Ethiopia (18).  It wasn’t only the nearby neighbors of the Jews seen by God; He knew (and knows) all of the nations of the world.  Even far-off Ethiopia would be judged by God, though one day they would come to worship the Lord at Mt Zion (18:7).
  • Against Egypt (19:1-17).  God promised Egypt a terrible judgment, when Egyptian would be set against Egyptian (19:2), and the life-giving waters of the Nile would fail them (19:5).  It’s unclear if this judgment has already taken place, or is still yet to take place during the Tribulation.
  • Future blessing on Egypt, Assyria, Israel (19:18-25).  Interestingly, Egypt would be judged, but not forever destroyed.  God has a future plan even for the historical enemies of Israel.  Even Egypt and Assyria will know the Lord as God (19:21).  Just as Paul writes, one day every knee will bow & every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of God the Father! (Phil 2:10)
  • Against Egypt & Ethiopia (20).  Little is said about the actual judgment of the North African nations here, other than Isaiah was supposed to walk barefoot and naked for three years as a sign against them. (21:2)  It’s amazing when we think of it: God cared so much about these pagan Gentiles, that He dedicated three years of His prophet’s ministry to witness to them about God’s coming judgment.  He wanted them to repent!  (Just like God invites all the world to repent through Jesus!)
  • Against Babylon, Edom & Arabia (21).  God continues reaching out to the Gentile nations, this time to the east of Judah.  He clearly pronounces their woe, warning them of the coming invasion (and power) of the Assyrian empire.
  • Against Jerusalem (22:1-14).  God’s own people are not exempt from His message of judgment.  Even the Jews would one day fall in battle, as God would remove His “protection of Judah” (22:8).  God had called for His people to repent, but they ignored His appeals (22:12-13).  For this, they would be judged.
    • We need to repent while we have the chance!
  • Against the person of Shebna (22:15-25).  Interestingly, the pronouncements against the various nations pause as God gives a specific judgment to a specific person: Shebna, the scribe of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-19).  He had built himself up in pride, and God would take him down, exalting the humble servant Eliakim in his place (22:20).
    • God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
  • Against Tyre (23).  God turns again to the nations, pronouncing judgment on Tyre, proclaiming how they would flee to the ends of the earth in Tarshish (23:6).  Yet they would have no rest (23:12).
  • Against the whole earth (24).  The various judgments are summarized in Ch 24.  God is sovereign over not only Israel & Judah, but over every nation of the earth!  One day all the nations will be aware of the wrath of God (terribly so in the years of the Great Tribulation), and there will be no doubt which God is truly God.  Isaiah 24:23, "(23) Then the moon will be disgraced And the sun ashamed; For the LORD of hosts will reign On Mount Zion and in Jerusalem And before His elders, gloriously."

Praise Break (25-27)

  • Personal song to God (25).  Again, it’s no wonder why Isaiah personally erupts in praise.  After this magnificent show of the sovereignty of God over all the world, how could he NOT praise the Lord?  It would be impossible to remain silent!  Isaiah 25:1, "(1) O LORD, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, For You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth."
  • National song to God (26-27).  Isaiah’s own song gives way to one sung throughout the “land of Judah” (26:1)  During the day that revival comes to the land, and all of Israel is restored in their faith and knowledge of God as God, they will declare their trust in the Lord (26:3), and know “YAH the LORD” as their strength (26:4).  God will swallow up death & wipe their tears away (25:8).  This will be a day when all of God’s people will be restored to their land, and physically come to worship at the “holy mount at Jerusalem.” (27:13)
    • There can be little doubt this speaks of the Millennial Kingdom and beyond.  For those who wonder about God’s plan for the historical national people of Israel, there can be no doubt.  If God’s word is true, it means His prophecies will be fulfilled to the letter, exactly as He intended.

National Woes and Glory (28-35) – God turns briefly again to judgment.  This time, not so much on the nations of the world, but the kingdoms of His own people.  Ephraim = Israel; Jerusalem = Judah.

  • Woe to Ephraim (28).  They were full of pride, and would be trampled underfoot (28:3).  They were drunk and unclean (28:7-8).  They could not even speak the word of God, barely able to teach precept upon precept (28:13).  But in opposition to their wickedness, God promised the precious cornerstone & foundation of Jesus Christ (28:16).  He gave them the opportunity to turn, if they would but do so.
  • Woe to Jerusalem (29).  Jerusalem is referred to as “Ariel, the city where David dwelt.” (29:1)  They also would be judged by the Lord, because they honored God with their lips, but not their hearts (29:13).  God had every right to judge them, as the potter has the right to do what He wants with the clay (29:16).
    • 29:16 quoted in Rom 9:19-21 (potter and clay)
  • Foolishness not to trust God (30-31).  Instead of turning to the Lord in true repentance, the Jews had plans of their own.  Future kings would attempt to make alliances with Egypt (30:2), and it would all be in vain.  Instead of placing their trust in pagan neighbors and their own vain abilities, they ought to have trusted in the gracious, just Lord God (30:18).  Those who wait upon Him would be blessed!  Those who did not would find disaster (31:2).
  • A future reign (32).  Though judgment would come upon Judah, God did not forget His people.  Not only would He judge Assyria & Babylon (and all of Judah’s enemies), but He would provide them a perfect King who would reign in righteousness (32:1).  The land would come out of a period of being forsaken (32:14), and experience a time of great justice and peaceful habitation (32:18).  King Jesus would rule over them, and it will be glorious!
  • Coming judgment with the King (33-34).  The visions go back & forth a bit here: one moment looking at the Millennial Kingdom, and the next looking at both the impending judgment of Judah with the Babylonians & the future time of trial in the Great Tribulation.  Whatever judgments were yet to come, they still had the promise of seeing the King in His beauty (33:17).
  • The glory of Zion (35).  What will Jerusalem look like in the Millennial Kingdom?  It will be amazing!  The desert will blossom (35:1), the glory of the Lord will be seen (35:2), the eyes of the blind will be opened & the ears of the deaf unstopped (35:5).  The redeemed of the Lord will walk freely in joy & gladness, coming to the worship of God. (35:10).  What a day that will be!

Historical Interlude (36-39) – Virtually a repeat of 2 Kings 18-20.

  • Sennacherib’s boast (36).  Thought he would defeat the God of Israel, just like all the others.  He was wrong!
  • Hezekiah’s prayer & God’s answer (37).  Hez humbled himself, and took the threats of his enemy to the Lord.  God promised to act, and did so.  The angel of the Lord went out and killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night.  Nothing is impossible for God!
  • Hezekiah’s fear of death (38).  He could have accepted the news soberly, but he panicked.  God graciously answered him, but it’s debatable on whether or not Hez used the time he was given wisely.
  • Hezekiah’s pride & Babylon (39).  At the time, Babylon wasn’t even a speck of a threat on the horizon, so when ambassadors showed up, Hez had no problem showing them the temple treasures.  He was rebuked by the Lord for doing so, and barely showed any repentance.

 

We’ll continue next week with the Book of Comfort…

Good Friday 2015

Posted: April 4, 2015 in Isaiah
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Good Friday 2015

It was the darkest day in all history, but it led to the most glorious event ever imagined.  God the Son suffered and died.  His body was laid in a tomb.  Nothing worse could be conceived than the death of the Creator of the Universe, yet that is exactly what happened.  It didn’t occur by chance or chaos; it was the purposed choice and plan of God.  The death of His Son was necessary if the sin of humanity was to be rightfully judged.  It was essential if the evil brought in by sin was to ever be made right.  And of course the resurrection of His Son was necessary if humanity was to be offered eternal life.  But the resurrection is what we celebrate on Sunday; on Friday we remember what came first.  Before there can be resurrection, there must first be death.  In this case, it was Jesus’ suffering and death upon the cross.

To do so, we look at Isaiah’s prophecy of the Suffering Servant.

Rejection of the Servant
Isaiah 53:1 Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.

There is something so incredibly sobering about the rejection of Jesus Christ by the world.  Here He is: the Lord of all Creation, by Whom everything was created, and through Whom all creation maintains its existence.  In Him, all things consist (Col 1:17).  The Son of God is utterly deserving of all praise and glory.  It is what the angels gave to Him, long before human time began…and it is what humans will be giving Him well into eternity.  Yet when the Son of God appeared to us as a Man, mankind rejected Him.  We “despised” Him.  Jesus grew up among the Jews as a normal Jew.  He didn’t appear to be a superman, or come in the glory of a king.  He was born into poverty, to a family that would be tainted by scandal because of Him.  He didn’t live in the cultural or religious center of the nation; He was from the backwater (“flyover country,” so to speak).  So people were naturally skeptical of Him when Jesus began His ministry.

Yet that would change when Jesus revealed Himself – right?  Wrong.  Even after Jesus demonstrated His power and authority, He was still rejected by humanity (Jew and Gentile alike).  It didn’t matter how many people He healed, or how many miracles He performed, or how much teaching Jesus provided in which people recognized He had an authority like no other…in the end, they still turned away from Him.  They (we) should have esteemed Him, but they rejected Him.  They cried out for His blood, demanding His death…and that’s exactly what Pilate gave to them.

But that was the reason He came.  Jesus deserves to be honored, but He same to bear dishonor in our place.

Substitution by the Servant
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

The Man of Sorrows “carried our sorrows.”  The esteem we should have given Him in honor, we instead gave to Him as being “smitten by God.”  The priests and others stood and mocked Jesus on the cross, saying that He saved others, but could not save Himself. (Lk 23:35)  They thought Him worthy of death because of the crime of blasphemy.  Jesus did die because of sin and iniquity, but it wasn’t His own; it was ours.  Jesus committed no blasphemy when making Himself equal with God, because He IS God.  Jesus did indeed save others; He chose not to save Himself.  Instead, He chose to die an accursed death because we were the ones under the curse.

It was for our transgressions that the whip fell upon Jesus’ back.  It was for our iniquities that the crown of thorns was shoved into His scalp.  It was for our sins that He bore stripes and spikes and a spear in His side.  We were the ones who had “gone astray” from the Lord God; not Jesus – but we were not the ones who bore the punishment we deserved for going astray.  Instead, Jesus became our substitute and took on the wrath of God for us.  2 Corinthians 5:21, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."  Jesus had no sin, but He became our sin, and our sin received its righteous punishment.

Death of the Servant
7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. 8 He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. 9 And they made His grave with the wicked— But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth.

Imagine for a moment what Jesus could have done.  He could have called down 12 legions of angels to defend Him, which God the Father would have gladly given (Mt 26:53).  If one angel was sufficient to destroy the firstborn children among the Egyptians in a single night – if one angel was enough to slaughter the Assyrian army of 185,000 soldiers outside of Jerusalem – imagine what 60,000 angels would do on behalf of the Lord Jesus?  And angels were not even necessary.  Simply the will of God the Son is enough to blot humankind out of existence.  At any moment, Jesus could have defended Himself, but He didn’t.  He intimately knew each and every one of the soldiers who beat Him, spit upon Him, and tortured Him – God had formed them in their mothers’ wombs.  And yet Jesus did nothing to restrain them, but allowed them to pour out their hatred upon Him.

Even when it came to His trial, Jesus showed supernatural silence.  Can anyone honestly believe that the Son of God could not out-argue or out-debate any priest or religious lawyer?  Jesus was not stumped by the priests – He was not incapable of defending Himself to Pilate or Herod.  Jesus could have silenced them all with a word, but He Himself did not open His mouth in defense.

Did Jesus die the death of a criminal?  Yes – because He was willing to do so.  He was taken by evil men, but He was not taken with resistance.  Jesus wasn’t out of options when He died upon the cross; that WAS the option He chose.  He made the choice to die in our place so that we might live.

Mission of the Servant
10 Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. 11 He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

It was all the plan of God.  Men took Jesus and abused Him in horrific ways, but it did not happen apart from the express sovereign will of God.  The fullness of God’s wrath had to come down upon sin, and that’s what came down upon Jesus at the cross.  Take a moment to consider that.  Just how bad is sin?  What is it that our sin deserves?  It deserves the most horrific kind of death imaginable.  We tend to forget this, and we take our sins for granted.  “It’s only a little lie, no big deal…  So I lost my temper, everyone does…  Sure I lusted again, but I can always ask for forgiveness…”  All of that – each and every sin was a sin for which Jesus suffered and died.  It was for that lust that Jesus had nails driven through His hands and feet.  It was for that grudge and that anger that Jesus hung in agony upon the cross.  It was for all those things and more.  Each single sin was enough to bring down the full utter wrath of God, and all of it for all of humanity fell upon the Son of God in a matter of hours.  That sin had to be answered, and God had a plan to answer it: Jesus.  God willed that His Son suffer and die in our stead.  That’s never something to take for granted!

But because Jesus DID suffer and die, what happened?  Now we can be forgiven.  Now the price is paid.  The assurance of this is the resurrection, which we celebrate Sunday, and which is hinted at even here in Isaiah 53.  How is it that the Servant of God can “see His seed” or have “His days” prolonged, if the Servant has suffered, died, and been placed into a grave?  It would seem that the opportunity for seed and future days have passed.  There is only one option: the Servant of God has to come out of the grave, and that’s exactly what happened on Sunday morning!  Because Jesus labored in death, we find satisfaction in resting in Christ.  Because Jesus paid our debt, now we have been justified in the sight of God.  Because Jesus makes “intercession” for us who were “transgressors,” now we have been made the children of God.

This is what we remember every Good Friday, every Resurrection Sunday, and hopefully each and every day out of the year.  The salvation that God offers to us is free, but it came at the highest of costs: the death of His Son.  Jesus had to be rejected, and become our substitute, and horrifically die, in order to complete His mission to bring us into a right relationship with God.

Hopefully you know this relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  For many of us, every Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday is an opportunity to be reminded of the things the Lord Jesus did for us, and express our gratitude to God.  This event is the very cornerstone of our faith – if Jesus did not die for us upon the cross and rise from the grave, we would have absolutely no hope at all. 

For others, perhaps this season has always been just “another” religious season and holiday.  You showed up in church because your family did, or because it’s just what you do at Christmas and Easter.  It doesn’t have to be that way…and it shouldn’t.  The Lord Jesus died for you upon the cross, and His desire is that you would be saved, and that you would know Him in spirit and truth; not just through some religion.  Turn to Him tonight, and receive His salvation.  Turn away from your sins – those were the things for which Jesus died and had to bear the wrath of God – and turn to Jesus in faith, believing Him to BE God who died and rose again.  Place your trust in Him as your God, and be saved.

Behold the Savior

Posted: December 25, 2014 in Isaiah, Thoughts
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Christmas Eve 2014 – “Behold the Savior”

Isaiah 42:1–9, "(1) “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. (2) He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, Nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. (3) A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. (4) He will not fail nor be discouraged, Till He has established justice in the earth; And the coastlands shall wait for His law.” (5) Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: (6) “I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, (7) To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house. (8) I am the Lord, that is My name; And My glory I will not give to another, Nor My praise to carved images. (9) Behold, the former things have come to pass, And new things I declare; Before they spring forth I tell you of them.”"

We read the Christmas story tonight – now put yourself in the place of the people who were there.  Can you imagine being with the shepherds that night?  There you are, doing the things you’ve always done on the outskirts of town (because no one really wanted you around in the first place), when all of a sudden the night sky explodes with light as an angel appears, telling you of the birth of the Savior, Christ the Lord.  He would bring good news of glad tidings to all people (even you, as a shepherd!).  The bright light is joined by a symphony of sound as a multitude of angels begin to praise God.  The heavenly chorus blasted through the still night air, echoing through the Bethlehem countryside.

The angel told the shepherds to go see the Child, and they did.  How could you NOT go see this thing for yourself?  It’s doubtful the shepherds could have been held back if someone tried.  Coming with “haste” (an understatement in the Bible if ever there was one), the group of shepherds found the Holy Family and saw the Child spoken of by the angel.

Surely the words of Isaiah rang true at that moment: “Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights!”  There they were, beholding the Elect Servant of God – the one that would bring the salvation of God to all the world. As they gazed upon the newborn infant, they were gazing upon the eternal Son of God.  As they wondered at this helpless babe, they looked upon the Omnipotent God.  What wonder!  What amazement!  To “behold” the Servant chosen by God to save the world.

In this prophecy from Isaiah, God told Isaiah several things about this Servant – the One whom God has chosen and upheld.  Some of these things were only barely evident about Jesus as He lay in the manger, but they were nonetheless true and would prove themselves over time.

  • God “delights” in Him.  The Servant sent by God is not one whom God despises; it’s one in whom the Lord delights.  Keep that in mind when Jesus is hanging from the cross & cries out, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  For God to send His only Son into the world to die for our sin is an amazing sacrifice.  The Father loves the Son more than we can possibly imagine…He delights in His Son.  And yet He also was willing to give the Son in whom He delights as a substitution and sacrifice for us.
  • God’s Spirit is “upon” Him.  The Man Jesus was not simply any other man; He was the God-Man, the Incarnate Son of God, and God the Holy Spirit rested upon Him in a way that was unique in the history of the world.  Jesus was empowered by God to do the work of God, and He has the authority to give that same power to all who follow Him in faith.  Because God the Holy Spirit was upon Christ Jesus, God the Holy Spirit can also come upon Christians.
  • He is righteous.  Isaiah wrote that “He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”  The Servant of God is one who is utterly righteous in every respect.  He shows no partiality to the Jew or the Gentile, and one day His righteous justice will be known in every nation, land, and language all over the earth.
  • He is meek and humble.  Jesus would not “cry out” nor would He break “a bruised reed.”  His humility is exquisitely seen at His birth in Bethlehem.  There He was, the Almighty Son of God, through whom God the Father created all the universe – lying as a Babe in a manger.  Jesus had created the tree that had been cut down and formed into the very lumber that held Him.  Jesus had created Mary, knitting her together in the womb of her mother – all the while knowing that one day He would be formed together incarnate in her womb.  Truly this is the humility of God the Son!  And His humility would not stop with His birth.  As He grew, He continued to live in meekness, tenderly calling sinners to Himself who were in need of salvation.  He still calls sinners today.  He called you & me – not in fierce condemnation, but in loving meekness, offering to save us from our sin and give us new life.  Praise God for our meek Savior!
  • He establishes justice by His might and rule.  Jesus is humble, but that is not all that He is.  He also has great might and power that will be seen when “He has established justice in the earth.”  Jesus came first in humility, but He is coming back in victory.  He began the kingdom of God when He walked the earth and went to the cross, but the kingdom will come into full fruition when Jesus one day walks the earth again, having defeated the devil and every other enemy of God.
  • He is called by the Creator God. The prophecy given by God to Isaiah goes into great detail of how God “created the heavens and stretched them out” – why?  Because it is this God who “called [the Servant] in righteousness.”  When Jesus was sent into the world, He came with all of the power and authority of God.  The Son of God had been given a mission by His Father, and the Son saw it through to perfect completion.  The Creator God sent Jesus to restore fallen creation, and it is all made possible through Jesus’ death and resurrection from the cross.
  • He fulfills God’s covenant promises to the Jews.  The Servant was given “as a covenant to the people” – which people?  The Jews.  Which covenant?  The One stretching back to Abraham.  Jesus fulfills all of the covenant promises made by God to His people.  From the very beginnings of the Hebrew people, God promised to send Someone through whom all the world would be blessed.  That Someone is Jesus.
  • He is the “light to the Gentiles.”  The Jews had the revelation and light of God given to them in the Scriptures; the Gentiles had only the revelation of creation around them.  That was enough to convict them of their sin, but not enough to bring them to salvation in Christ.  Jesus gave them (gives us) that revelation.  He shines the light of God’s love upon the people who are utterly lost in darkness.  Have you seen the light of Christ?  Have you rejoiced in the light that He gives?
  • He gives true sight and true freedom.  When Isaiah prophesied that the Servant of God would “open blind eyes” – that was true literally and figuratively.  Jesus did indeed heal the blind.  But far worse than blindness of sight is the blindness that is brought on by sin.  Someone can be physically disadvantaged and still go to heaven through faith in Christ; someone who is spiritually blind is left eternally doomed, unless God intervenes.  The good news of Christmas is that God DID intervene.  We were blinded by our sin – we were imprisoned, left as slaves unto death, but God sent Jesus to change all of that.  He sent Jesus to give sight to the blind, and lead us out of the prison of sin and death.
  • He receives the praise and glory of God.  God will not give His “glory” to another, nor His “praise to carved images,” but He will certainly give His glory to the living Lord Jesus.  He shares in the name and praise of God because He is God.  He is Jesus, “Our God is salvation.”  He is Immanuel, “God with us.”  He is glorious!

What a description of the Babe in the manger, and Lord of all the universe!  Christian, behold your God & Savior!

Tonight, we celebrate His birth, but the reason we do is because of what His birth makes possible: His life, His death, His resurrection, and ultimately our forgiveness from God and salvation.  When we behold the Babe in Bethlehem, we do not look upon just another baby.  We don’t even look upon just the hint of a promise of something more.  No, when we look at the One lying in the manger, we are beholding the Servant of God – the Savior sent by God – the very Son of God Himself.  We behold the Lord Jesus, the light of the world and the greatness of the glory of God.  This is Who we see and Who we worship.

Is this Who you worship at Christmas?  Christmas is more than gifts, traditions, and reindeer; it is the revelation of the glorious Son of God to all the world.  You can worship Him tonight.  You can behold Him as the Lord by faith.  This Christmas, receive the best gift that has ever been offered: eternal salvation.  From the moment you were born, you were facing death separated from God.  Every one of us is condemned in our sin because we have (at some point) loved evil rather than good.  Every one of us has a death sentence on our heads.  The good news of Christmas is that God gave His Son to change all of that.  God loves us and wants us to be saved.  He doesn’t want any of us to perish, so He gave us Jesus that we would not perish, but live.  So live!  Receive this gift of grace by believing upon Jesus as your Lord and God.  Behold Jesus with new eyes tonight, knowing that He died for you and rose again from the grave.

Christmas Sunday 2014
Isaiah 9:6-7, “The Lord Is Come, and Is Coming Again”

Merry Christmas!  Just the word “Christmas” brings to mind thoughts of joy.  We all have our favorite traditions, desserts, gifts, and songs.  For many, it is their very favorite time of year.  It’s a time to get together with family and friends, and to rejoice in all kinds of celebrations.  Of course, that’s all the window-dressing.  That is all of the obvious stuff that surrounds the holiday, but it is by no means the stuff that makes it a holy-day.  The very reason all of that other stuff is there (and some of it is very good) is because of the birth of Jesus.  God sent His only begotten Son into the world to be the Savior of the world, and Jesus is both the miracle and the true gift we celebrate at Christmas.

How good of a gift is Jesus?  The gospel of John says it best: John 3:16, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life."  Salvation from eternal death and the receipt of eternal life is a good gift indeed!  And it is available to any and all who would believe upon Jesus as Savior and Lord. (Be sure to come back next week for more on that statement from John 3!)  Christmas is the time we celebrate that glorious gift of God.  We remember when the Son of God first came into the world as a babe in a manger, born in Bethlehem.

But Bethlehem was only the beginning.  One of the most famous Christmas carols in the English language really has very little to do with the events at Bethlehem.  Listen to the words penned by Isaac Watts in 1719:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let ev’ry heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing.

            Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

Does that sound like a Christmas song to you?  Isaac Watts based his words upon the latter half of Psalm 98, which is anything but a song of the Messiah’s birth; it is a song of praise for the Messiah’s future reign and judgment.  So, why do we sing it at Christmas?  Because without Christmas, we have no Christ.  Without a humble birth, we would have no death upon a cross, no resurrection, no forgiveness of sins, and thus no kingdom.  What good would it be for Jesus to come as a King, if He had no subjects over which to reign?  Without His death and resurrection (i.e. without His earthly ministry), NO human anywhere would have any forgiveness, and there would be no kingdom. 

Thus Bethlehem was absolutely necessary, but it was only the beginning.  God always had something more in mind for His Son when Jesus came to earth.  There was to be a restoration of all things.  Jesus would right every wrong in the universe, and He would rule over this restored Creation as its glorious King.  The 1st Coming of Jesus directly points to, and makes way for His 2nd Coming.

That’s the subject of our text today. Isaiah’s prophecy in Ch. 9 contains some of the most famous words about the birth of the Messiah in all of the Old Testament.  But the birth itself is only briefly mentioned.  Most of the prophecy speeds past Jesus’ birth, ministry, cross, & resurrection, and proceeds straight to His reign as King.  For all of the things that Jesus has already done in the past, some of His greatest work still lies ahead in the future.  As we celebrate, we do it not just by looking backwards in thankfulness, but also by looking forward in anticipation and hope.  We will personally see the glory of King Jesus with our own eyes.  Just as the shepherds and people of Judea could look forward to the coming of their Messiah, so do we look forward to His return.  That is worth just as much celebration at Christmas as was His birth.

Isaiah 9:6–7
6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah’s prophecy doesn’t begin with verse 6 (obviously); it comes in a greater context.  “For…”  What’s the “for” for?  God had given Isaiah a prophecy about the coming Assyrian invasion of Judah.  The king of Assyria would come through the nation of Judah like a river overflowing its banks (8:7-8).  People would be understandably distressed, and though they should turn to God for comfort (as Isaiah would in 8:17), the people overall would not.  They would be altogether in darkness (8:22).

That’s when God would intervene.  He would certainly deliver the southern kingdom from the Assyrian threat, but God looked forward to a greater deliverance: one from darkness itself.  The whole land of Israel (both north and south) would have the light of God shine upon them (9:1-2).  God promised to take His people from a time of mourning to a time of great joy and freedom (9:3-4).  How would He do it?  Through a “Child.

That’s where the prophecy in vss. 6-7 picks up.  A “Child” – a “Son” would bring this deliverance that God had promised.  Simply the existence of this Son was a gift in itself.  His birth was the ultimate fulfillment of another prophecy given by Isaiah that previewed this one.  God had told Isaiah to go to King Ahaz and have Ahaz ask God for a sign that God would fulfill all of these future things.  Ahaz refused (out of false piety and false humility), and God declared that He Himself would give a sign.  Isaiah 7:14, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."  This miraculous Son would act righteously in a way that Ahaz had not, but most importantly, this Son would be the sign that God had come.  His very name is “Immanuel”: “God with us.”

All of this was given to the historical King Ahaz as a way of confirming the judgment of God.  But God’s judgment upon Ahaz is grace upon us.  At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of this Promised Son.  We rejoice in Immanuel, born of a virgin, exactly as God promised.  Immanuel isn’t merely the promise of God (which would be grand enough); He is the Person and presence of God.  “God with us.”  Hallelujah!  We who were estranged from God in our sin are now brought near…better yet, we are approached by the One whom we could never dream of approaching ourselves.  He dwells in unapproachable light (1 Tim 6:16), and yet He drew near to us.

God came to us when Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary.  God dwelt among us…not just fulfilling the promise He made to Ahaz through Isaiah, but fulfilling the promise He made to Adam and Even in the Garden of Eden.  Genesis 3:15, "And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, And you shall bruise His heel."  Immanuel IS the seed of the woman.  The virgin bore a Son (the only way she could have “seed”), and the result was the Son of God, Jesus – our Immanuel.

All of that takes us back to Isaiah 9:6.  The “Child is born” – the “Son is given.”  Immanuel/Jesus is the greatest gift imaginable!  The Son of God came unto mankind as a newborn Child.  He was born according to the plan and prophecy of God, and He was born for a purpose.  This Son would bring the brightness of the glory of God among His people (9:2), and even among the Gentiles (9:1).  Upon this Son, all the eyes of the world would be set.  He had been sent to rule and reign over every nation of the world.  Thus the “government” of God would “be upon His shoulder.

Objection!  Wait a minute!  Isaiah’s prophecy skips over the cross.  Jesus did come to be the King, but first He came in humility.  He came to be our substitute at the cross, bearing the righteous anger of God that we had earned in our sin.  Jesus came humbly as the Passover lamb, so that we might be saved when we put our faith in Him and in His resurrection from the dead.  Yet Isaiah doesn’t say anything about that.  He just leaps ahead to the victory of the Messiah, without looking at His sacrifice.

That may be true in Ch. 9, but Isaiah will write of the sufferings of the Messiah in great detail later on.  He will write of this same Immanuel King who will also be the suffering servant of God.  The One who will bear the government upon His shoulders would first bear our griefs and carry our sorrows (53:4).  He would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities (53:5).  All of this as a part of His substitution and sacrifice for us.  That was THE primary purpose of Jesus’ 1st Coming, and it was perfectly fulfilled.

But the Son of God has more than one coming.  The first time, Jesus came to suffer and die.  The second time, Jesus will come to rule and reign.  It is His 2nd Coming that is primarily in view in Ch. 9.  This prophecy does briefly address the 1st Coming, but only in how it relates to the 2nd Coming.  The Child would be born – the Son would be given – amen!  And it is because this is true, that the 2nd Coming is made possible.  After all, when is the news of a Jesus who reigns good news?  It’s good news when we are included in His reign.  If all we had to face from a victorious Lord Jesus was judgment, that would surely be BAD news (at least for us).  That would mean we would have to face Jesus while we were still in our sin, and we would be held responsible for every blasphemous and rebellious thought & deed against God.  We would have no hope for forgiveness, because Jesus would never have died on our behalf.  Without coming in humility, going to the cross and being raised from the dead, we would have no chance of forgiveness, and we would be utterly lost in our sin.  Without the 1st Coming, the 2nd Coming isn’t good; it’s terrifying!

But that’s not how Isaiah describes it.  When Jesus comes in His glory, the gloom of the people disappears.  The people are brought out of darkness into light.  The people experience exceeding joy and freedom.  The coming reign of the King is gloriously good news!  Thus Isaiah doesn’t skip over the cross; he presumes it.  At this point, the sacrifice has been made – sin is forgiven, and the people can rejoice in the coming of their King.  The Child had accomplished the purpose of the 1st Coming, and now moved on to something more.

Now that sin has been forgiven, what is it that the people of God can experience?  They can know Jesus in all of His glory.  He is described here by four names: (1) Wonderful Counselor, (2) Mighty God, (3) Everlasting Father, (4) Prince of Peace.

  1. Wonderful Counselor.  Despite the comma that may exist in your translation (and the way you might be singing Handel’s “Messiah” in your head), we need to remember that the original Hebrew did not have modern English grammatical markings.  Each of the other titles for Immanuel has a description, and so does this one.  Obviously Jesus is truly wonderful as a whole, but here He is specifically a “Wonderful Counselor.”  His wisdom is infinite – His plans are perfect.  A person has no better advisor than when his adviser is the Lord Jesus.  Truly He is a wonderful counselor!
    1. The primary context here is the military strategy of the Lord, as King Jesus defeats every foe – but the principle is true in every other area.  His counsel is better than any other.  Do we receive Him as the Wonderful Counselor, or is His voice just once more among the crowd?  Is His voice one that can be ignored?  There is no one more knowledgeable than Jesus.  There is none more wise or more discerning.  Who better to be your counselor than the God who knit you together in your mother’s womb, and who knows you better than you know yourself?  The person is no fool who relies upon the Lord Jesus for wisdom & counsel!
  2. Mighty God.  This Child & Son is far more than a human babe; He is the all-powerful God for whom nothing is impossible.  He has the authority and power to work whatever He wills, thus whatever God wills will be done.  All the plans He made known to Ahaz and the nation of Judah would come to pass.  After all, it was the “Mighty God” who was doing the work.  Likewise, all the plans He makes known to us in the Bible will come to pass.  Jesus is the Mighty God – there is nothing He cannot do.
    1. Do you trust Him as the Mighty God?  We obviously celebrate Jesus’ human birth as a baby, but it would be a tragedy to think of Jesus only as a baby.  Yet that is what many people do.  The only way they think of Jesus is as a participant in the nativity scenes.  He is confined to the manger & nothing more.  But Jesus is infinitely more!  Even while wrapped in swaddling clothes, Jesus was still the Mighty God.  That is who Immanuel is, and who He will always be.
  3. Everlasting Father.  Out of all the names given to Jesus-Immanuel, “Everlasting Father” seems the most unusual.  After all, Jesus is the Son; not the Father.  As an adult, Jesus declared that He and the Father are one (Jn 10:30), and that the person who has seen Jesus has seen the Father (Jn 14:9).  All of this goes back to the unity and inner relationship of the Trinity.  Biblically, we know the Son is NOT the Father, and should not be confused with the Father.  After all, it was the Son who died for us upon the cross; not the Father nor the Spirit.  They are different in their Persons, but not in their substance.  IOW, the Trinity (Father, Son, Spirit) is one God.  It is that unity within the Godhead that is emphasized here.  The Son shares the same power and glory as the Father because the Son is God.  The Son is everlasting, just as the Father is everlasting.
    1. What a glorious contrast!  Jesus is the Son, born into the world as a Child.  His humanity had a beginning, but His Deity did not.  The Son of God has always existed, from everlasting to everlasting.  He is everlasting in His existence, and He is everlasting in His glory.  When Jesus comes back to rule and reign, His is a kingdom that will never end.
  4. Prince of Peace.  Contextually in Isaiah, the Promised Son comes in the midst of war, and He breaks the symbolic staff of those who would oppress His people.  How can this Warrior-King be a “Prince of Peace”?  Easy.  It is through His massive show of power that peace is ushered in.  There is no peace without the power of Jesus.  This is seen in abundance in our salvation.  Because of our sin, we were at war (enmity) against God.  We had rebelled against Him and made ourselves slaves to sin and death.  Yet through the cross and resurrection, Jesus removes the enmity.  We now can have peace with God.  We now have peace and freedom away from the slavery of sin.  None of that was possible apart from the power of Jesus.  His mighty work made our peace possible.  His omnipotence and victory that crushed sin, Satan, and death make Jesus the ultimate broker of peace: the Prince of Peace.
    1. Sometimes we think of peace as an absence of conflict.  That is a form of peace, but it’s not the fullest extent.  True peace is experienced when conflict is reconciled – when it is made right.  That is what Jesus did in His 1st Coming between God and Man, and that is what He’ll do in His 2nd Coming among the entire created universe.  All of creation will be reconciled with God.  Jesus will right every wrong, and the peace of God will flood every corner of the universe.

 

All of that has spoken of the person of the Son.  The Child who was to be born wasn’t just any Child; He is Immanuel, God with us.  He has all of the characteristics of God and all of the glory of God.

But the prophecy doesn’t stop there.  What makes Immanuel so amazing is that He is God WITH us.  Jesus would dwell among His people not only at His 1st Coming, but also at His 2nd.  The 1st time He came as a Servant, to seek and to save that which was lost.  The 2nd time, He comes as a King, and it is His kingdom that is described in vs. 7.

7 Of the increase of His government and peace There will be no end, Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, To order it and establish it with judgment and justice From that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Put yourself in the position of the famous wise-men (the magi) for a moment.  Although we normally remember them at Christmas-time, they actually weren’t anywhere near Jesus at the time of His birth.  In all likelihood, they left their home around the time Jesus was born (perhaps Persia), and didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until Jesus was a toddler.  (If we really want our nativity scenes to be accurate, we need to place the wise-men on the other side of our house…)  Timing aside, why was it they came to see Jesus?  Matthew 2:1–2, "(1) Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, (2) saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”"  They had come looking for a newborn King, and they were ready to worship Him.  From the very beginning, people were looking for their Messiah to be a King, and to rule over the nations from Jerusalem.  This was still the expectation of the disciples, after Jesus’ resurrection, right before Jesus ascended back to His Father in heaven.  They asked Jesus, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”  To which Jesus responded it wasn’t for them to know the timing of those things that were in the Father’s authority, but they were supposed to be witnesses of Him by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:6-8)  But it was no doubt a literal, physical kingdom that the magi and the disciples looked for…and for good reason.  The prophets declared that the Messiah would rule a kingdom, and this is something Isaiah specifically writes of regarding Immanuel.

The Child was born – the Son was given – but He would not remain a Child.  He would grow and receive a position of authority.  Isaiah already wrote how the government would be upon His shoulders; now he describes what Immanuel’s kingdom & government would look like.

First, Immanuel’s kingdom is ever-growing and everlasting. “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end.”  Kingdoms and nations are sometimes defined in terms of boundaries.  We know where the kingdom ends because that is where the boundary line is drawn (or negotiated).  Yet what is the extent of Jesus’ kingdom?  The universe.  The King of Israel rules over far more than Israel alone.  All power and authority under heaven and earth has been given to Him (Mt 28:18).  At the name of Jesus, every knee will bow – of those in heaven, upon the earth, and under the earth (Phil 2:10).  There is no corner of the universe over which Immanuel will not reign supreme.  His kingdom is vast!  It is infinite in scope.  Interestingly enough, astronomers believe that the universe is ever-expanding.  Truly, the government of King Immanuel is “increasing.”

Of course better than an increase in square mileage is an increase in population.  Through the power of the gospel, the Kingdom of Christ is expanding every day.  Every single time a person trusts Christ as his/her Savior and is born-again by the Holy Spirit, that person is born as a new citizen of the Kingdom of God.  It’s no wonder the angels rejoice over sinners who get saved!  People are given new & eternal life, and they are given citizenship in the eternal kingdom of Jesus.  And this happens every single day all over the world.  Granted, it can be difficult to see at times…especially here in the Bible Belt.  It seems like the gospel is shared repeatedly, but few actually get saved.  But that’s not the case elsewhere.  Other countries are seeing revival break out – even in the midst of great persecution.  People all over the world are leaving false religions and coming to the truth in Jesus.  Jesus’ kingdom is continuing to increase, and we need to pray that it will continue to do so.  “Lord, Thy kingdom come!”

Second, Immanuel’s kingdom is a restoration of the kingdom of David. “Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom…”  Long ago, God promised David that God would build him a house (a family & a dynasty of kings) that would never end.  The throne of the Son that would come after David would be established forever (2 Sam 7:13).  Jesus/Immanuel is that Son & that King.  When His kingdom is set up upon the earth, it will remain for eon after eon.  We often call it the Millennial Kingdom, because the initial phase of it will last 1000 years (after which God has more in store – Rev 20:6-7). But the rule of Jesus will last far more than 1000 years – it will go into eternity!  Jesus is the King, and He will always be the King.

The interesting thing is that when this prophecy was given, David’s kingdom had already diminished somewhat.  David and Solomon each had ruled over a united kingdom, but after Solomon, the kingdom split into north and south.  Land was lost to the northern kingdom of Israel, and eventually to the Assyrians when the northern kingdom was conquered.  For the kingdom of David to increase, it would need to be restored.  Yet far more than the northern kingdom would be lost.  Though Judah was still strong at the time of this prophecy, it would also be conquered, and the people taken to Babylon in captivity.  From that time, it would only regain its freedom once for a brief time under the period of the Maccabees, but the kingdom would remain gone for thousands of years.  (Even until today.  The nation of Israel is independent, but it is not a kingdom.)  But God promised a kingdom…and not just any kingdom, but “the throne of David.

From an outside perspective, this would seem to be impossible.  How could the throne of David be restored?  Beyond the troubles of remaking the modern nation of Israel into the kingdom of Israel (in the midst of a Muslim land), how would you first even discover the rightful heir – the person of David’s line to sit on the throne?  Far too much has happened in history – there would be no way to identify a person of David’s physical descent, much less the exact line that should inherit the throne in Jerusalem.

Yet this is exactly what is promised by God, and this is exactly what God will perform.  This is not something that was fulfilled at Jesus’ 1st Coming, but it was certainly previewed.  The King was born, in that the Son had been given.  The magi knew a King had been born, though they likely knew very little about Him.  The King HAD been born, and He was of the correct lineage of David.  Jesus is a physical descendent of David by Mary, and He is the legal heir to the throne through Joseph’s adoption.  It would be impossible to find the rightful heir today, but God has already done it.  The King of Israel has been born, and He still lives.  All that awaits now is the timing of God for this King to return and re-establish His Kingdom.  That is exactly the promise of the 2nd Coming.

Third, Immanuel’s kingdom is a kingdom of righteousness. He will “order and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.”  This was quite the contrast with the kingdom of Ahaz.  Ahaz was a political compromiser who attempted to bribe his enemies.  He had no respect for the holiness of God, and even built a pagan altar within the Jerusalem Temple.  Not so with this future King.  Immanuel would be the very picture of justice and righteousness.  His kingdom would not have a hint of falsehood in it, from its foundation even into eternity.

This can be difficult for us to imagine today.  Can you a picture a nation led by Someone perfectly righteous?  Someone who cannot be bought with a bribe, nor willing to compromise His principles (which perfectly reflect the righteous judgment of God)?  It doesn’t matter which political party you most agree with, a person like that is difficult to find!  Yet He has already been found.  His name is Jesus. 

And better yet, this perfectly righteous King is not only the King of the Jews, but He is the King of all the world.  What Isaiah describes is a kingdom in which WE will live.  Those who believe upon Jesus now will live in the kingdom of Jesus later.  We already know this Righteous King through faith, but one day will experience the reign of this Righteous King in our flesh.

How will it all take place?  That takes us to the end of the prophecy. 

Fourth, Immanuel’s kingdom is instituted by the power and will of God.  “The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.”  Again, this kingdom is impossible to set up by the will of men.  There would be no way to find the heir, nor any way to realistically remake the modern Middle East into the expansive Kingdom of Israel.  It would have to be done by God, or it would not be done at all. 

But that is exactly God’s plan.  He will do the work, and He will receive the glory.  And keep in mind that this isn’t something that He is indifferent about, or is half-heartedly doing because He has no other choice.  This is what God wants to do.  His zealous will is to bring about the righteous kingdom of His Son and to establish Jesus’ throne forever.  If we long for this time in our hearts, think for a moment how God must long for it in His.  When Immanuel’s kingdom is established on the earth, it will be the grand fulfillment of His plans and promises given to Israel throughout the pages of the Bible.  After the first thousand years, it will be the grand consummation of all things in all the universe.  Everything that went wrong in the original Fall will be made right again.  Every sin will have been answered – every death will be done – every evil will be abolished as God Himself dwells with us and wipes every tear from our eyes.  It’s no wonder that God is zealous for that day!  And it is no doubt that He will do it, and perform the work.

Conclusion:
No doubt some of you are thinking, “OK – this has been nice and informative.  But what on earth does this have to do with Christmas?  Christmas is when we celebrate the birth of Jesus.”  True – but it’s really more than that, isn’t it?  Christmas is when we celebrate the arrival of the Son of God.  The Son has existed from eternity past, but there came a moment in time when He stepped into time and He came to earth as a Man.  He did it once, and He will do it again.  Of course Jesus has never stopped being a Man – He has remained incarnate since the moment the Holy Spirit conceived Him in the womb of Mary.  But He most definitely will come again.  He dwelt among us once, and He will dwell among us again.

That’s part of the joy and hope of Christmas.  It’s not only looking at what Jesus has done in the past, but it’s also looking forward to the hope that we have with Him in the future.  As Joseph and Mary looked forward to that first Christmas, they looked forward with hope to the Messiah’s coming in humility (His advent).  As we look forward to the next advent, we hope in the Messiah’s coming in victory.  That’s what Isaiah wrote about regarding Immanuel, and that’s what Isaac Watts wrote about in “Joy to the World.”  We look forward to that day when all the earth can sing: “He rules the world with truth and grace / And makes the nations prove / The glories of His righteousness / And wonders of His love.”

This Christmas, you can share in the same hope as the shepherds and the magi: that you will soon see the Messiah with your own eyes.  You will know the glories of His kingdom, and the wonder of the majesty of Jesus.  As a born-again believer in Jesus, you will experience these things for yourself when King Immanuel comes back and sets His kingdom upon the earth.  What a glorious privilege we have!  What a wonderful hope!  Christian: this Christmas, worship with your eyes up, looking for our Lord Jesus, and trust in His soon return.

Coming Judgment – Coming Kingdom

Posted: February 9, 2014 in Isaiah

Isaiah 65, “Coming Judgment – Coming Kingdom”

To talk about the judgment of God is a difficult thing.  So many people avoid the OT prophets specifically to avoid the idea of God’s wrath and judgment.  Yet turn to the NT, and we find Jesus doing exactly the same thing in the book of Revelation.  Even the cross itself is the ultimate expression of the judgment of God, even as it is the ultimate expression of His grace.

Because God is just, He must judge.  That includes those among the world, and those who are included among the people of God.  After all, judgment begins in the house of God (1 Pet 4:17).  The nation of Israel is no exception.  They had sinned against God in horrible ways, for which He was about to send them into Babylonian captivity.  Yet those 70 years would not be the end of their rebellion against God.  They would rebel again when they rejected the Son of God as their Messiah – and that’s a rebellion that persists to this day. 

Would God judge?  Yes.  But that’s not the end of the story of God & the Jews.  Along with the promise of judgment is the promise of blessing.  There is the wrath of God, but there is also His mercy extended in the Millennial Kingdom, and even into eternity.

That’s what we see in Isaiah 65 as things begin to wrap up in the prophecy.  Just as the NT ends with a description of tremendous tribulation that comes to the Jews, and the fulfillment of the Millennial promises, so does the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah 65

  • God vows to judge (vss. 1-7)

1 “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ To a nation that was not called by My name. 2 I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people, Who walk in a way that is not good, According to their own thoughts;

  • Isaiah 64 had ended with a question to God.  The prophet (on behalf of all the people) was crying out to the Lord for the destruction that was to come to them via Babylon (and perhaps prophetically, in the Tribulation).  Sin had been confessed, and the reality had sunk in that they had no righteousness that they could bring to the Lord.  They were fully deserving of the wrath of God, and the only hope they had was God’s mercy.  So they asked if the outpouring of God’s anger was enough.  Would it be sufficient, or was there more to come?  Isaiah 64:12, "Will You restrain Yourself because of these things, O LORD? Will You hold Your peace, and afflict us very severely?" []  The question has been asked; now God provides the answer.  No.  No, it’s not over.  The Babylonian conquest is not the only time of tribulation the Jewish nation would face.  There would be more to come.  Not just in the wars that raged in the land between the Syrian (Seleucid) and Egyptian (Ptolemy) empires – not just the Romans, even to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD – not even just to the horrors of the Holocaust brought on by the Nazis – ultimately this would carry on & finally be fulfilled in what the Bible calls the days of “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer 30:7) = the Great Tribulation.  Although there would certainly be application to the Babylonian conquest the Jews were about to experience, the context coming out of Ch. 64 implies that God is speaking of a time that goes beyond the days of the Babylonian captivity.  If Ch 63-64 show the suffering that takes place in Babylon, and Ch. 65 shows additional suffering beyond Babylon, then it only makes sense we’re looking at something still yet future.  The Great Tribulation best fits that context.
  • The details of the suffering of the Jews and God’s wrath will be made plain in a bit, but God starts off His description with a people that are not the Jews.  Vs. 1 describes a people who are strangers to the covenants of God, but who seek God nevertheless.  Those who didn’t ask for God found God.  God had presented Himself to the Jewish nation, but the Jews did not seek Him.  Ironically, it was the people who were not called after God’s name that sought Him out in faith.
  • There’s a bit of debate here whether or not vs. 1 refers to Gentiles & vs. 2 to the Jews, or if both vss. 1-2 refer to the Jews – and some translations (ESV & NASB) base their translations heavily on the latter interpretation.  However, Paul seemed to hold to the first point of view, as he quoted Isaiah to the Romans as to why God reached out to the Gentiles with the gospel of the Jewish Messiah.  Romans 10:19–21, "(19) But I say, did Israel not know? First Moses says: “I will provoke you to jealousy by those who are not a nation, I will move you to anger by a foolish nation.” (20) But Isaiah is very bold and says: “I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” (21) But to Israel he says: “All day long I have stretched out My hands To a disobedient and contrary people.”" []  It was because Israel rejected God (and eventually rejected God’s Son as Messiah) that the gospel went out to the Gentile masses.  WE know the Messiah of the Jews, in part because the Jews did not receive their Messiah.  Now part of our role is to provoke them to jealousy.  They are to see the relationship that Gentile Christians have with Yahweh God, how God stretched out His hands to us in salvation, and it supposed to cause them to wonder, to look to Christ Jesus, and to be saved!
  • God is willing to receive ANY who come to Him in faith!
  • The problem with the Jews is that they were not willing.  They were continually “rebellious,” and they did not walk in the way of God.  As the Hebrews did in the days of the Judges, everyone did what was right in their own eyes (Jdg 21:25).
    • That’s still what people do today.  Those who reject God as the King – those who continually rebel against God and who He has revealed Himself to be, all “walk in a way that is not good, according to their own thoughts.”  Without an objective moral standard of right/wrong, how is it a person determines good from evil?  They have to determine it for themselves.  They judge what it is that will benefit or harm them the most.  If it makes them happy, it’s good; if it sends them to jail, it’s bad.  It’s completely centered on self, and it’s completely relative from person to person.  That’s why we so often hear the phrase, “That’s OK if it’s good for you; it’s not good for me.  Don’t force your morality on me.”  They don’t accept the objective moral standard of the Scripture, because in their viewpoint there IS no objective moral standard.  Morals are all based upon the individual.  Thus we have the cultural decay stemming from rampant fornication, homosexuality, abortion, drug & alcohol abuse, and so much more.  Everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes, and thus nothing is right for society as a whole.  Whatever the majority determines is right, must in fact be right – regardless if it violates the word of God or not.
    • The obvious problem is that the majority isn’t always correct.  At one point in time, the majority of people believed that racism was acceptable.  At one point in time, the majority of people believed that the earth was flat.  The majority can often be wrong.  What is important is not what the majority thinks about the truth; but the truth itself.  What IS the truth?  That’s what needs to be discovered, and that is exactly what the Bible reveals.
  • God goes on to describe the rebellion of His people.  Vs. 3…

3 A people who provoke Me to anger continually to My face; Who sacrifice in gardens, And burn incense on altars of brick; 4 Who sit among the graves, And spend the night in the tombs; Who eat swine’s flesh, And the broth of abominable things is in their vessels;

  • The Jews had engaged in pagan idolatry.  “Sacrifice & incense” were regular parts of Jewish worship, but only when done in the way prescribed by God.  Incense symbolized the prayers of the saints, and was only to be burned in the tabernacle/temple, using only the specific blend of incense that God had commanded.  Sacrifice was given to provide atonement for sin, and to symbolize one’s complete dedication unto the Lord.  It also was only to be done in certain places (the bronze altar), and only in certain ways.  The Jewish people (who were supposedly called after the name of God) took the things that God had given them, and perverted them with usage according to different religions (and presumably to different gods).
    • Just because someone does something that looks religious doesn’t mean that it’s something that is pleasing to God.  Virtually all world religions have some form of prayer, but not all prayer is heard by the One True God.  And what is worse is when God’s people take something that has been given by God, and twist it through worldly use.  It’s easy to point our fingers at the ancient Jews, but what about evangelical Christians when we turn worship services into an entertainment program?  Or TV ministries that use prayer as a means for greed?  We need to be careful to maintain the holiness of what God has given to us for our good.
  • The Jews had engaged in uncleanness.  They had disregarded the dietary laws & eaten unclean foods.  They had ignored the prohibitions about dwelling among unclean things (such as corpses).  Again, they had given themselves over to the things of the world, and it didn’t bother them in the least.  The Jews (the people of God!) had become virtually indistinguishable from the world around them, yet they were supposed to have been a people set apart, witnessing to the glory of God.
    • Again, this is something we need to beware in the Church.  Jesus has left us in the world, but we’re not to be OF the world.  We’re supposed to look different…more to the point, we’re supposed to BE different.  It’s one thing to be a missionary to our culture – it’s another thing to blend it so much that someone doesn’t have a clue that we belong to Jesus Christ.
  • The result?  They provoked God to anger!  God had reached out to His people in love, and they spurned His mercies.  They turned aside from His grace, and continued in sin & rebellion…and in the process, they made a terrible mistake.  It’s one thing to pick a fight with your neighbor, who may or may not be stronger than you.  It’s another thing to pick a fight with the omnipotent God.  If there is one Being in all the universe you don’t want angry with you, it’s God!  And yet that is exactly what they did.
    • Sin always angers God…whether it comes from Israel, or us.  Sin is always rebellion against His rule, and it is always spitting in the face of His grace.  It rightly angers God, just as spiteful rebellion from our children rightly angers us.  The good news for us as born-again Christians is that Jesus has already absorbed God’s righteous anger for us.  He already took on all of the punishment for all of our sin (past, present, and future) when He went to the cross.  That obviously does not give us license to go engage in more rebellion, but it does reaffirm His forgiveness and grace when the sin occurs.

5 Who say, ‘Keep to yourself, Do not come near me, For I am holier than you!’ These are smoke in My nostrils, A fire that burns all the day.

  • One of the worst parts about the sin of the Jews was their hypocrisy in it all.  They may have offered sacrifice & incense, but they did so in idolatry.  They had totally disregarded the law of God regarding holiness, and yet they absurdly claimed that they were more holy than all of the other people around them.  They may have acted just like the Gentiles, but they didn’t want to associate with the Gentiles, because they perceived themselves as holy & set-apart to God.  How?!  In what way?!  They had done nothing but provoke God to wrath.  Simply because they had a Jewish last name did not mean that they acted as a Jew.  As Paul would later write, not everyone of Israel is OF Israel (Rom 9:6).  As John the Baptist said, they should not take pride in being children of Abraham, because God could raise up children of Abraham from the stones (Mt 3:9).  If they were not circumcised in their heart, it wouldn’t matter if they were circumcised in their flesh.  Their idolatry and sin clearly demonstrated that they were anything BUT holy.
  • And God knew the difference.  Their claims were nothing except irritating to Him, like campfire smoke that blows in your face.  Their sacrifices were not a pleasing aroma to Him; they caused Him to fume with wrath.
  • Just as sin angers God, so does hypocrisy.  Jesus saved His harshest criticism for the Pharisees & scribes who elevated religious hypocrisy to an art form. (Mt 23)  God desires humility; not hypocrisy from His people.  Hypocritical Christians justify their sin; humble Christians confess it.  Hypocritical Christians place standards upon others that they themselves cannot keep; humble Christians understand that all standards are met only in Jesus.  Hypocritical Christians judge others with abandon; humble Christians judge rightly & with compassion.  May we beware the creeping nature of hypocrisy, and continually examine our own hearts that we would remain humble before the Lord!

6 “Behold, it is written before Me: I will not keep silence, but will repay— Even repay into their bosom— 7 Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together,” Says the LORD, “Who have burned incense on the mountains And blasphemed Me on the hills; Therefore I will measure their former work into their bosom.”

  • This is what God has been leading up to since the moment He first began answering the question.  No, the conquest of Jerusalem was not all that the Jewish people would face.  God would “repay” these sins.  He vowed His wrath, just as He was legally bound to do.  The covenant “written” in the book of Deuteronomy specifically demanded that God act in His justice according to the sin of the people, and that is exactly what He would do.  Deuteronomy 28:47–48, "(47) “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything, (48) therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you." []  This is what the Lord had promised, and He would be faithful to every bit of the curses given throughout Deuteronomy 28.  He would so “measure” out His own wrath unto Israel that it would seem as if He would utterly destroy the whole nation.
  • Notice that there were both individual AND national sins seen by God: “Your iniquities and the iniquities of your fathers together.”  It wasn’t merely the sin of the current generation to which God was responding; it was the sin that went back generation upon generation.  God had given many opportunities for the people to repent through the years, and they just didn’t do it.  (Even today, the Jewish people have daily opportunities to come to faith in Jesus as Messiah, but by & large, they still reject Him.)  God was obligated to address the sin of the nation.  Just as God judged other pagan nations for their repeated sins, so He would judge His own people.
    • Just because a nation has experienced the blessing of God in the past does not mean that the nation will not experience the judgment of God in the future.  God sees the national sins which build up over generations, and there eventually comes a point in which He must act.  It would seem the United States is quickly approaching that point.  We have turned aside from our Biblical foundations – we have dismissed Biblical Christianity to the fringes – we have engaged in all kinds of moral abominations – we have given support to nations that would see Israel destroyed.  Surely we are approaching that point of national judgment by God.
  • Question: in Deuteronomy 28, God promised to destroy the nation.  Did He do it?  No doubt the Jewish nation as the people knew it WAS destroyed.  But that doesn’t mean that the race of Jews was entirely extinguished from the earth.  Even in the midst of His judgment, God made sure to extend His mercies.  See vs. 8…
  • Mercy to remnant; wrath to rebellious (vss. 8-12)

8 Thus says the LORD: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, And one says, ‘Do not destroy it, For a blessing is in it,’ So will I do for My servants’ sake, That I may not destroy them all.

  • The nation was sinful, but not all were as sinful as the rest.  There was a remnant that had remained faithful to God.  As hopeless as things may seem to be, there is always a faithful remnant.  Even today among the Jewish people who reject Jesus as Messiah, there is a remnant (Rom 11:5).  There are cultural Jews who understand that Jesus truly IS the Son of God, that He died for them as a sin sacrifice, and that He rose from the grave according to prophecy.  To be sure, they are part of the universal Church, but they are still Jewish by background, and thus they are the remnant of God.  (BTW, this is different than Gentile Christians to attempt to take on a Hebrew identity in an attempt to connect with the “Jewishness” of the OT.  Gentiles cannot make themselves Jewish any more than a cat can make itself a dog; they are two very different things.  It is Jesus in His grace that removes the obstacle between us and makes us one body of believers together.)
  • What God describes to Isaiah is very similar to the conversation that God had with Abraham concerning the people of Sodom (Gen 18).  God had revealed His intention to Abraham that He was about to bring destruction upon the city for their wickedness.  Abraham interceded for the city in prayer, knowing that his nephew (Lot) lived there, and asked that even if there were 10 righteous people that Sodom might be spared.  God agreed, but sadly there were not even 10 righteous.  Yet instead of destroy the righteous with the wicked, God sent two angels to go collect Lot & his family from Sodom, prior to its destruction.  In a sense, there was good wine found within the bad cluster (to use the analogy in vs. 8), and God would not “destroy them all.
    • Even in His judgment, God is merciful!
  • The basic idea here is that God’s wrath (which is justified) was still restrained because of His mercies.  God describes that that looks like in vs. 9…

9 I will bring forth descendants from Jacob, And from Judah an heir of My mountains; My elect shall inherit it, And My servants shall dwell there. 10 Sharon shall be a fold of flocks, And the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, For My people who have sought Me.

  • As a whole, the nation would be destroyed, but it wouldn’t stay that way forever.  There was a remnant of God’s people who would remain faithful, and God would ensure their survival & restoration to the land.  The picture here is not one of a nation barely-holding on through wave after wave of oppressive invader (as what has happened through history), but of a nation experiencing profound peace. 
  • Who experiences it? “My people who have sought Me” = those who have faith.  This time of blessing & prosperity is not for someone who just claimed to be a Jew, but for those who truly are believers in the true God.  Of course, this is exactly what we will see during the Millennial Kingdom (which will be addressed in fuller detail later on).  At the close of the Great Tribulation, only those who have faith in Christ Jesus will enter the Kingdom, and the people of Israel will have the peace in the physical land of their inheritance, just as God has promised.

11 “But you are those who forsake the LORD, Who forget My holy mountain, Who prepare a table for Gad, And who furnish a drink offering for Meni. 12 Therefore I will number you for the sword, And you shall all bow down to the slaughter; Because, when I called, you did not answer; When I spoke, you did not hear, But did evil before My eyes, And chose that in which I do not delight.”

  • Obviously, not everyone would have faith.  The remnant did, but others did not – contextually, it seems to refer to the current generation of Jews in Isaiah’s day.  They had proven themselves unfaithful to the Lord, practicing pagan idolatry.  “Gad & Meni” are most likely names for Canaanite gods, but their names could be translated “Fortune & Destiny.”  It’s very possible there is a double meaning with the double names.  There was document idolatry among the people of Judah, perhaps to these very Canaanite gods.  Yet those who did not literally bow their knee to Gad still gave themselves over to Fortune.  They tried to worship their own version of Destiny.  IOW, they had completely abandoned the God of their covenant, whether by using a pagan statue, or an idolatrous idea in their own mind.
    • That is often where people in our own culture fall to idolatry.  It’s relatively easy to stay away from worshipping physical idols (though a good argument can be made that it happens more often than we think, in regards to houses, cars, vacations, sports, etc.).  What can be more insidious & more prevalent is the worship of false ideas of God in our own minds.  People give themselves over to Fortune/Ego, and they worship themselves.  Either way, it’s still idolatry, and it is rebellion against God.
  • God has an answer for the idolatry of Israel: judgment.  They would face “the sword & slaughter.”  These are not exaggerated terms – the Jews faced terrible death during the onslaught of the Babylonians, the Romans, during the Nazi holocaust, and those who don’t turn to have faith in Christ Jesus will face wholesale slaughter again during the Great Tribulation.  It’s not that God didn’t reach out to them to repent…He “called,” but they “did not answer.”  They chose to endure in “evil,” knowing it was abhorrent in the sight of God, and they would face the terrible slaughter that would be the result.
    • God will judge, but God does not desire judgment!  God desires salvation!  The Bible tells us clearly that God desires all men to come to repentance (Acts 17:30).  That includes Jews AND Gentiles.  He desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4).  That is His desire for all the world, but undoubtedly many reject the gracious offer of God.  What is left, besides judgment?  God must judge, and He will.
  • Contrast between true & false believers (vss. 13-16)

13 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD: “Behold, My servants shall eat, But you shall be hungry; Behold, My servants shall drink, But you shall be thirsty; Behold, My servants shall rejoice, But you shall be ashamed; 14 Behold, My servants shall sing for joy of heart, But you shall cry for sorrow of heart, And wail for grief of spirit.

  • The contrast is clear.  Those who have faith experience God’s blessing.  Those who reject God experience His punishment.  Contextually for Israel, those who seek after God will experience the blessing of the Kingdom promises.  Those who do not will be cast out – unable to enter into the Kingdom of God.
  • Not only are they left out – they are cursed…

15 You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord GOD will slay you, And call His servants by another name;

  • Those who continually reject God will find themselves destroyed by God.  The only legacy they leave behind is one of judgment.
  • Again, if we think of the Jews that rejected Christ, what happened historically afterwards?  The good news of salvation went to another people – “servants” of God who were called “by another name.”  Jesus said that He had other sheep in other sheepfolds that He needed to gather (Jn 10:16) – a reference to this same idea.  God gave the gospel of salvation first to the Jews, but it did not remain only with the Jews once they rejected it.  God gave it afterwards to the Gentiles.
  • What happens to those who have faith (be they Jew or Gentile)?  Vs. 16…

16 So that he who blesses himself in the earth Shall bless himself in the God of truth; And he who swears in the earth Shall swear by the God of truth; Because the former troubles are forgotten, And because they are hidden from My eyes.

  • They do not have a legacy of judgment, but of blessing. Whatever trials and tribulations come will not last forever.  Those who had faith in the Lord would eventually see a day in which “the former troubles are forgotten.
  • Praise God that we look forward to a better day!  There’s no doubt that we experience troubles now, but it won’t always be the case.  We bear the burden of stress, guilt, sin, conflict, and all sorts of things.  But because of the promises we have in Christ, we look forward to something far better.  When we’re with Jesus, the former things are “forgotten & hidden.”  When we are in the physical presence of our Lord Jesus, how will the trials of this life compare?  They will all fade in dim memory…gloriously so!
  • Promise of future kingdom and eternity (vss. 17-25)

17 “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.

  • How far removed will we be from earthly troubles?  There eventually won’t be a troubled earth!  Something new is coming: a “new heavens and a new earth.”  The physical universe is going to go through a fundamental change, and will be made brand-new.  Peter wrote of a day in which the heaves and elements will dissolve in fervent heat, in anticipation of the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells (2 Pet 3:12-13).  John actually witnessed the appearing of it, in his visions of the future: Revelation 21:1–4, "(1) Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. (2) Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (3) And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. (4) And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”" []  This is what is in store!  We have a glorious future with our Lord Jesus…and it will never end.
  • We can talk about this using terms like “restoration,” but notice it really does go beyond “restoration” all the way to re-creation.  When God ushers in eternity, He will do more than simply repair what is already here; He’s going to provide something brand-new.  The new heavens & new earth isn’t going to be a patch-job repair project; it will be brand-new, entirely untainted by the stain of sin.
    • Keep in mind that this is what He had done in each of our lives through Jesus.  The Bible says that in Christ, we are “new creations.” (2 Cor 5:17)  When you asked Jesus to be your Lord & Savior, you received a new birth via the Holy Spirit, and you became a brand new person.  The old person that you were is gone; the new person that you are was made by the will of Jesus Christ.  You weren’t simply patched up; you were made brand-new.  THAT is an amazing gift of grace!
    • That’s also why it’s downright bizarre that we fall back into the old habits of old sins.  After all, that’s not who we are any longer.  It’s as if we go back & pick up a corpse & try to wear it as a jacket.  We’re not to try to live in the dead flesh of the past, but to live as the new creation that God has made us to be.

18 But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, And her people a joy. 19 I will rejoice in Jerusalem, And joy in My people; The voice of weeping shall no longer be heard in her, Nor the voice of crying.

  • What a contrast for what Jerusalem was about to experience!  They were about to endure one of the horrendous times of tribulation that they had seen thus far as a nation.  And as bad as it was, it was just a foretaste of what was to come!  Yet there was something more – something better that God had in mind for them.  In the present, many would “cry for sorrow of heart” (vs. 14), but as a nation, the Jews would not always weep.  The people were currently rebellious against the Lord, provoking Him to anger (vs. 3), but future generations arising out of the faithful remnant would cause God to “rejoice in Jerusalem.”  The people and their God would be able to rejoice in each other, as all the times of trial and “weeping” are put forever aside.  No more crying, no more pain – just joy in the Lord as the people dwell with their God.

20 “No more shall an infant from there live but a few days, Nor an old man who has not fulfilled his days; For the child shall die one hundred years old, But the sinner being one hundred years old shall be accursed.

  • This might raise some questions.  On one hand, Isaiah refers to the new heavens & new earth, and we know that during that time, death itself will pass away.  How could anyone die (even at 100 years old)?  How could anyone be a sinner in heaven?
  • At this point, it becomes evident that Isaiah is talking about two different time periods, though from his perspective in the past they may have appeared to be the same.  We’ve looked at the idea of the “mountain peaks of prophecy” in regards to Jesus 1st & 2nd comings – this is the same sort of thing going on in regards to the Millennial Kingdom & the eternal state.  God is giving a prophetic word to Isaiah about events thousands of years in the future, and from Isaiah’s perspective these things easily run together, but there is no doubt they are different. 
  • The Millennial Kingdom begins at the moment of Jesus’ return to earth.  He comes in power & glory at the battle of Armageddon, defeats Antichrist & the armies of the world, and ushers in a kingdom of peace from which Jesus reigns in Jerusalem.  During that time, Jesus fulfills the promises made to David, and while Antichrist & the false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire, the devil is chained for 1000 years in prison while Jesus reigns on the earth.  Those who survived the Great Tribulation & made it through the judgment of the nations (sheep & goats) enter into the Millennial Kingdom, and live, marry, and even die during those years.  The longevity of a lifespan will seemingly be restored to what it was prior to Noah’s flood, with people living for centuries at a time.  As Isaiah writes, a death of a 100 year old will seem like the death of a child in comparison.  It will be a time of tremendous blessing upon our current planet as it stands.
  • At the end of that 1000 years, Satan is released for one final rebellion, and apparently he is able to raise up an army from among the nations of the earth.  Though they would have lived under the perfect reign from the perfect King, humans born in that time still are born with a nature of sin & many of them will choose to rebel against Jesus.  The rebellion will be dealt with immediately by God, and finally the devil will be tossed into the lake of fire.  It’s at that point that the eternal state begins, when death itself will be cast into the lake of fire with the devil & Antichrist.  This is the time of the Great White Throne judgment, when all humans who have ever lived will stand before God and find if their name has been written in the Lamb’s book of life.  Finally God brings the new heaven and the new earth, and those who have had faith in Christ will live with our Savior forever freed from the very presence of sin ever again.
  • That’s a lot of detail, but it helps explain the seeming difficulties in Isaiah’s prophecy from the Lord God.  At first, he saw the eternal state – now he sees the Millennial Kingdom.  Death exists & sin exists, but it is different than what we see today.  During that day, even with the existence of those things, the nation of Israel will experience blessing like they have never experienced before.  All of the things that they were promised through the Son of David will come to fruition, and they will live in the Kingdom that God always meant them to have.

21 They shall build houses and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. 22 They shall not build and another inhabit; They shall not plant and another eat; For as the days of a tree, so shall be the days of My people, And My elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. 23 They shall not labor in vain, Nor bring forth children for trouble; For they shall be the descendants of the blessed of the LORD, And their offspring with them.

  • What kind of blessings will they have?  Total freedom – total independence – total sovereignty.  No longer will the Jews be ruled over by other nations.  No longer will the Jews have to see their fruits and their labors stolen away from them.  No longer will they experience the consequences of the hatred of the world towards them.  They will truly live in the blessings of God.

24 “It shall come to pass That before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.

  • The best part of the Kingdom?  They’ll finally know Jesus as Lord!  They will dwell in close relationship with their King.  Whereas in their rebellion God did not answer their prayers, in the Kingdom God WILL answer.  God will hear, and God will be with them always.
  • What Israel looks forward to is the relationship we experience with the Lord Jesus right now!  What a privilege it is that the Lord hears us & answers us!

25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, The lion shall eat straw like the ox, And dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain,” Says the LORD.

  • How peaceful will that day be?  Carnivores become vegetarians.  This same imagery was used by Isaiah before, back in Ch. 11, in reference to the perfect reign of the Messiah, the “Rod from the stem of Jesse” (11:1).  There will be no need for fear of wild animals, because the Creator of the animals will dwell among us, and will take away their fierceness.
  • Notice the diet of the serpent: “dust.”  Seems to be a purposeful reference to Genesis 3, when God cursed Satan the serpent.  At that time, God told him that the serpent would eat dust all the days of his life, and proceeded to speak of a time that the promised Messiah would bruise the head of the serpent (Gen 3:14-15).  For all the judgment that will no longer be placed on the Jews during the Kingdom, the one judgment that WILL come will be upon Satan.  He will never be victorious, no matter what.

Conclusion:
Answering the question of whether or not His judgment was over, God told Israel assuredly that it was not.  He would fully repay the Jews for their continued idolatry, rebellion, and hypocrisy against Him.  Those things would not be ignored, and God’s wrath was coming.

But so was His blessing.  God had given a promise of a future kingdom, and He has every intention of seeing it fulfilled to the letter.

One of the amazing privileges we have being the Body of Christ living in the last days is that we get to see much of this coming to fruition before our eyes.  For the first time in centuries, there is a nation of Jews that dwells in the land promised to Abraham.  There is a faithful & visible remnant of Israel that has faith in Jesus as the Messiah.  The gospel has gone out among all the world, and Gentiles have from to Christ by the multitudes.  The stage is set & the time is right for Jesus to take the Church home, and return His focus to the people of Israel.  There will indeed be Tribulation, but there will also be blessing – more than the world has ever seen.

Today, not only can we wait with anticipation for the fulfillment of these prophecies, but we can thank God that we currently live in the relationship with Jesus that the Jews await.  Right now, our God is with us.  Right now, He wipes our tears away.  Right now, He strengthens us for our trials.  And right now, we have the promise of being with Jesus immediately when we die.  We don’t have to wait for the Kingdom – we’re experiencing part of it today, even as the fullness will come later.

Ultimately, what it is it we see?  The overarching plan of salvation that God had in place from the very beginning.  This is our sovereign God – and this is Someone whom we can be in awe of & praise.

Sure Promises of Messiah

Posted: January 23, 2014 in Isaiah

Isaiah 61-62, “Sure Promises of Messiah”

Kids have interesting ways of keeping promises.  They might make a supposed promise, but cross their fingers behind their backs, giving them a loophole.  Or if they’re being really sincere, they make a “pinky promise” (as if the pinky gives it extra weight).  Of course, it’s not just kids.  Adults do the same thing when we swear on our mothers’ graves (or whatever).  It’s tough to know what promises to trust, simply because we just have a tough time keeping our word.

That may be true for us, but not for God.  What God promises, He fulfills.  Every. Single. Time.  There is not a promise in the Scripture that either has not BEEN fulfilled, or will not BE fulfilled precisely to the letter of God’s intent.  God’s word & promise is accurate to the infinite degree.

As the prophecies of Isaiah start to wrap up, the prophet receives tremendous promises to pass along to Israel regarding salvation offered through the coming Messiah.  Not only were there promises that the nation would not forever remain in captivity & slavery, but they would be restored to a place of double honor than they had ever experienced before.  The Messiah promised something so incredibly great that the people may have had trouble believing it.  After all, it just seemed so inconceivable with what they faced in the near future.

But what God has said, God will do.  Ch 61-62 take time to address the promises of God.  Not only are the actions of the Messiah (the Servant of God) more fully seen, but the promises of what the Messiah will do for Israel (and for ALL of His people) are fully assured.  The people of God could trust the promises of God.  The Messiah was coming, and they were to look forward to that day.

Isaiah 61

  • The mission of Messiah (vss. 1-3)

1 “The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn, 3 To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

  • A lot to take in here…but it helps to keep the whole section intact & in context.
  • Interestingly enough, there is actually some debate on who the speaker here might be: the prophet Isaiah, or the Messiah.  No doubt there are some Messianic prophecies in which there is a near & far fulfillment, but there really ought to be no question of the speaker in this particular instance.  Jesus Himself gave the interpretation when He read this very passage in the Nazareth synagogue (Lk 4:16-21).  If Jesus said this spoke of Him, then it speaks of Him!   Even if that weren’t enough, then the text itself makes it clear.  Prophets were certainly filled with the Spirit of God, but Isaiah records much more than the description of a prophet.  The Person who said these words not only had the “Spirit of the Lord GOD” upon Him, but the specific anointing of the Lord.  Remember that the very title of “Messiah” means “anointed one.”  The text describes the anointed one of God who had the Spirit of the Eternal God in a unique way.  There’s no way Isaiah could be writing of himself in this; he has to be writing of Someone far greater.  And he is: Jesus.
  • Jesus’ exposition of this prophecy is actually very important.  [BIBLE: Luke 4:16-21] Notice where Jesus stopped reading: the middle of vs. 2.  Part of the prophecy was in the process of being revealed at the moment of His reading; the rest of the prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.  Jesus had opened to a very specific place in the Scripture, and He ended at a very specific point in the prophecy.  That shows clearly that part of the prophecy applied at the time; part of it applied later.  (Which illustrates the principle of the mountain peaks of prophecy…)
  • What was fulfilled in the first coming?  The Messiah’s mission of mercy.  He was to:
    • Preach good tidings to the poor”: Good tidings = gospel!  In the Beatitudes, Jesus declared “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5:3)  To those who understood their spiritual poverty, they received the good news of a Savior Who provides for their every need.
    • Heal the brokenhearted”: Likewise with the poor, the brokenhearted were those who grieved the results of their sin.  Like the tax-collector who beat his breast & cried out, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Lk 18:13)  Not only did Jesus have a tremendous ministry of physical healing to those in need, He reached out to those who were spiritually and emotionally broken, and He offered the healing of God.
    • Proclaim liberty to the captives”: To those who were enslaved to sin – to those who were enslaved to demonic possession – Jesus proclaimed true liberty.  Everywhere Jesus went in Judea saw those who were spiritually enslaved set free.  To the Jew, this would carry the particular idea of the Year of Jubilee, when all of the Hebrew slaves & indentured servants would be released from their obligations – when debts would be cancelled.  Jesus truly cancelled the debt of our sin!
    • Proclaim…the opening of prison to those who are bound”: The gospels do not record any examples of Jesus travelling to prison to open the doors to those who were bound, but there are certainly physical examples of this after His resurrection & ascension.  Peter and Paul each had literal times that they were miraculously set free by the Lord.  Beyond this, there is the possibility that this might refer to Jesus’ work in the grave.  When Jesus died upon the cross, His soul left His body (as all do), and He went to Sheol (the place of the dead).  Although God did not leave His soul in Sheol (Ps 16:10), Jesus certainly did something while there.  What was it?  Perhaps He opened the doors for the OT saints to enter Paradise with Him.
    • To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD”: This is what Jesus did from the very beginning of His ministry when He preached (as did John the Baptist), “Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt 4:17)  The nation of Israel was called to look to the Lord & the coming of Messiah – it was the long awaited fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham, Moses, and David.  It was time!  (And they missed it!)
  • What will be fulfilled in the Messiah’s second coming?  The fulfillment of the Kingdom.  Jesus will:
    • Proclaim…the day of vengeance of our God”: This will be seen most dramatically upon Jesus’ coming at the Battle of Armageddon, but it’s seen throughout the Tribulation time as the Lamb of God is the One who opens the various seals of judgments.  In any case, there is coming a day of God’s vengeance, and it is King Jesus who will be the warrior to see it done.
    • Comfort all who mourn, console those who mourn in Zion”: Jesus comes back in power and glory and vengeance, but that is not His only role in the Millennial Kingdom and eternity.  He will rule over the earth with an iron rod in righteousness, but He will also comfort those who trust Him.  The Bible says that all Israel will mourn the coming of the Messiah as they look upon the One they pierced.  Yet they won’t live out 1000 years of the Kingdom in grief – those in Zion will be comforted by the Messiah who shed His blood for them.
    • Substitute grief with joy – “give…beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”  All of the days of the tribulation – all of the years of suffering – all will be reversed as Jesus gives glorious things in place of their trials.  People would typically repent in humility with sackcloth and ashes.  Here, the Messiah is shown lifting His people out of that place of humiliation and restoring them to a place of joy.
  • Of course, all the things that are true regarding King Jesus and the Jews in His plan of salvation is true in a similar way between the Lord Jesus and the Church.  He preaches good tidings in the gospel…  He heals our broken hearts… He proclaims our freedom… He proclaims our acceptance in the kingdom… He takes vengeance upon our enemy…  He comforts us for all eternity & beautifies us in His grace!
  • What is the result from all of this?  A rooting. “That they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”  What a tremendous promise to Israel!  For the nation that had been uprooted & carried out of the land into captivity, the Messiah promises a re-planting…a time when they would be grounded again, and placed into an everlasting relationship with the Lord in His righteousness.  They would not be cast away to be burned as chaff; they would be grown and exalted to the glory of God.  It is the Lord’s doing, and it is the Lord’s promise – which is a theme that will be revisited at the end of Ch. 61.
  • Promised blessing of Zion (vss. 4-7)

4 And they shall rebuild the old ruins, They shall raise up the former desolations, And they shall repair the ruined cities, The desolations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, And the sons of the foreigner Shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers.

  • This is another prophecy that has both a near & far aspect to it.  No doubt this was partially fulfilled during the return from Babylonian captivity.  The “old ruins & former desolations” were rebuilt.  The temple which had been torn down was raised up again.  The wall of Jerusalem which had remained smoldering & burned was rebuilt by Nehemiah.  That much is true & historical.  Yet vs. 5 is not.  When the Jews returned from Babylon, they were still serving foreign governments; they did not have “sons of foreigners” serving them.  That is yet to be fulfilled – but it WILL be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom.
  • People sometimes wonder why it’s so important to keep looking at the Millennial Kingdom as we study the OT.  It’s because there is no other way for the prophecy to be true!  If the Kingdom is not literal, then the promises of God are not all literal.  And if that’s the case, how can we determine which promises are literal, and which are not?  How can we trust anything about our future as born-again believers, if we cannot know for certain what God said about the future of Israel?  It is a slippery slope which takes us to a place of uncertainty, rather than faith.  But it IS true!  God still has a plan for Israel, and there are many prophecies for the nation yet to be fulfilled.  But because they WILL be fulfilled, it gives us great assurance for every promise WE have for the future as well.

6 But you shall be named the priests of the LORD, They shall call you the servants of our God. You shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, And in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, And instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; Everlasting joy shall be theirs.

  • Notice the future tense here.  Although the nation of Israel was supposed to be a kingdom of priests unto the Lord (Exo 19:6), they had not acted like it.  Instead, they had been an idolatrous, adulterous nation.  That’s the very reason God was angry with them and sent them to captivity.  Remember that Isaiah is writing to the Jews just prior to the Babylonian captivity taking place.  They had suffered somewhat already through the years, but they were about to endure a suffering as they had never seen.  (And even that would not compare with the future days of the Great Tribulation!)  Yet what is the promise here?  They would come out on the other side.  The nation of Israel would not cease to exist – the promises of God would not be null & void.  The children of Abraham would indeed still serve as “the priests of the LORD & the servants of our God.”  There was a plan for them yet in the future.  They would have a wonderful place in the kingdom of God in glorious relationship with Him, both worshipping Him & helping others do the same.
    • What is true for the nation of Israel in the future is true for the Church today. 1 Peter 2:9–10, "(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy." []
  • Notice also how things will be reversed for the nation.  At their present time in history, the people of Israel were despised by the world.  They were the ones paying tribute to empires more powerful than themselves.  They were the ones having their land taken & their inheritance dwindled.  Not so in the future Kingdom!  The despised ones will be honored in the world (“double honor!”).  They will receive all of the inheritance that God planned for them – even a double portion.  And most of all, the Jews will have joy!  No longer will they suffer and be cast aside – they will rejoice in the presence of God, and they will be supplied by the nations as the Jews enjoy victory.
    • Things get turned upside down in the Kingdom…and in a glorious way!  Because of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the weak become strong, the humble are exalted, and the last are first.  Those who lose their lives for Christ’s sake find it.  It’s upside-down from the way things are today among the world, but it is all to the glory of God!  We who are trodden down are called the overcomers – we who were enemies of God are now called His children.  And our result?  “Everlasting joy shall be” ours! 
  • God’s declaration to bless (vss. 8-9)

8 “For I, the LORD, love justice; I hate robbery for burnt offering; I will direct their work in truth, And will make with them an everlasting covenant.

  • Why will God do all of this for the Jews (and for us)?  He says exactly why in vs. 8: “For I, the LORD, love justice.”  God loves justice.  What God chooses to do through the fulfillment of His covenant promises is just.  Although what God offers His people is completely soaked in grace, there is nothing about God’s grace that is unjust.  What God chooses to do through the Messiah on behalf of His people is righteous.  God had made promises to Abraham, Moses, and David, and those promises were unbreakable.  Because God had made an everlasting covenant already with the patriarchs, He would make an everlasting covenant with the people. 
  • Again, all of this is possible through the work of the Messiah.  All of it is made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus.  Think about it: an everlasting covenant of grace with a rebellious people would be unjust if there was no punishment for sin.  God had made promises to the patriarchs, but God is also a holy, righteous God.  He cannot go against His own character.  He needed some way to fulfill the covenant promises without denying His perfect righteousness.  How to do it?  There must be an acceptable sacrifice of sin…and there was: Jesus.  It’s no wonder Jesus could preach good tidings – the good tidings were about Him!  Once Jesus came and died for sin, God had the offering that was needed & His people could be directed in truth.
    • Peace with God is only made possible through the sacrifice of Jesus!

9 Their descendants shall be known among the Gentiles, And their offspring among the people. All who see them shall acknowledge them, That they are the posterity whom the LORD has blessed.”

  • What is it that was to be “known among the Gentiles”?  The blessing of God.  As the nation of Israel experiences blessing in the Millennial Kingdom, all those who see those blessings will realize exactly where those blessings originated.  The Jews will not have deserved any blessing at all from the Lord, but because God is faithful to His promise, He will give it.
  • This is grace!  This is what we experience as well.  WE do not deserve any blessing from God – we do not deserve any relationship with God whatsoever!  Yet that’s exactly what we receive through Christ.  We have been given everlasting life – a relationship with God Almighty.  Every single thing about our new life in Jesus serves to give glory to the God who gave us those blessings.  No doubt people see it now in part, but in eternity, there will be no question!  Every blessing – every reward – every single thing at all will be known as a gracious gift from the Lord Jesus.  People will see the blessings of the Lord, and they will praise His name.
  • God beautifies in salvation (vss. 10-11)

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

  • Who is the speaker here?  This would best seem to be Isaiah, speaking on behalf of the nation.  The Messiah has been promised, and Himself promised to come on a mission of mercy.  Yahweh God personally promised that His covenant oaths would be fulfilled.  Incredible blessing unto Zion has been declared, and now the nation (via the prophet) responds.  With what?  With joy!  Isaiah sees how God has clothed the nation with saving grace, and he cannot hold back his praise & joy.
  • Likewise with us.  We can rejoice in our salvation.  We were clothed in filthy rags, but now we have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ. (2 Cor 5:21)  Made beautiful in His sight…
  • Question: do we rejoice?  Truly rejoice?  When was the last time you took time in your prayer to spend time just being joyful in the presence of God?

11 For as the earth brings forth its bud, As the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth, So the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

  • Answers the question how all these things will come to pass.  How can the people know that Messiah will come in His mission?  How will it be that all the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom will come true?  All of it is through the Lord.  God is the source of it all.  Just as assuredly as gardens spring up from the earth, so will blessings to Israel spring up from the Lord God of Israel.  He is their provider & source of strength.
  • The work that God has begun, He will be faithful to complete. (Phil 1:6)  How do we know?  It comes from Him!

God gets personal in His assurances to Israel for all of these promises…
Isaiah 62

  • Messiah’s promise to bless Zion (vss. 1-9)

1 For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, And for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, Until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, And her salvation as a lamp that burns.

  • Who is the “I” – the speaker?  Again, this is debated somewhat.  It could be Isaiah, but considering the actions taken in vs. 6 on behalf of the nation, it seems more likely that the Messiah is speaking again.  Some tremendous things have been promised on behalf of the nation.  These were blessings that surely would have been difficult to believe considering the suffering that the Jews were about to endure.  So the Messiah speaks up as God, giving assurances of what He will do.  He will not stay silent – He will not be absent – He will not grow weary.  God will work to see His plan complete.  God’s will regarding Israel WILL be done, and every single promise He made will be fulfilled.
  • What a tremendous promise from our God!  We can be sure that not a single promise will remain undone by the end of time.  We won’t get to eternity & wonder, “So did God really mean it when He said ____?”  Everything will be complete!  He will not rest until it is!  For Israel, that means that they can expect a day in which they WILL live in the “righteousness” of God (something of which they do not experience now).  For us, it means that we can expect a day in which we WILL live in the very presence of our Lord Jesus!  We’ve already received His righteousness and salvation, but we have not yet experienced His presence.  But we will…of this, we can be sure!

2 The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, And all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, Which the mouth of the LORD will name. 3 You shall also be a crown of glory In the hand of the LORD, And a royal diadem In the hand of your God.

  • What can the Jews expect the Messiah to accomplish on their behalf?  Incredible blessing!  The righteousness of Millennial Israel will be so bright, that even “the Gentiles will see” & “all kings” will take notice.  In the kingdom, the people of God have a new righteousness, a new glory, and “a new name.”  What will it be?  The “LORD will name” it in the next verses – but the important thing for now is to know that it comes from the Lord Himself.  The nations of the world will no longer insult the Jews and call them every insulting name in the book; they will have a glorious name given them by the God of Israel.  They will be lifted up among the nations and given honor.
  • How much honor?  They will “be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD” – they will be as a gemstone of God.  Amazing grace!  This is a nation that many other nations of the world had attempted to cast to the dung-heap of history.  This is a people that had been discarded & outcast by the Gentiles.  Numerous times in history, empires have attempted to exterminate the Jews (most recently the Nazis & the Muslims) – all have failed.  In the Millennial Kingdom, there is no more disdain for Israel, there is only honor and glory.
  • What will the nations see in Israel?  The same thing they are supposed to see among the Church today: Jesus!  We have no glory of ourselves; we are supposed to shine forth the glory of Christ.  Likewise with Israel.  The glory of Israel in the Millennial Kingdom will literally shine forth in brightness like a gem – why?  Because the Incarnate Son of God will dwell in Jerusalem reigning from the throne of David over the world.  The brightness of His glory will shine forth & all the world will take notice.  Thus when people witness the glory and honor of the nation, ultimately they will witness the glory and honor of the King.
    • That’s supposed to be what happens with us.  When people see our good works, they will glorify our Father in heaven.  When the world sees our love for one another, they will know that we are disciples of Jesus.  Any glorious work done through us only serves to show the glory of the God who chooses to work through us.

4 You shall no longer be termed Forsaken, Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate; But you shall be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; For the LORD delights in you, And your land shall be married. 5 For as a young man marries a virgin, So shall your sons marry you; And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, So shall your God rejoice over you.

  • Here is the new name for Israel.  They were known as “Desolate,” but now they are known as “Delight.”  “Hephzibah” = “My Delight is in Her.”  “Beulah” = “Married.”  What a transformation!  They had been forsaken, but they will be restored to magnificence!  God delights in His people.  They were once cast off as unfaithful, but now they are brought back as a virgin bride unto God.  The book of Hosea shows the grace and patience of God as He continually cared for Israel as the prophet cared for his unfaithful & adulterous wife.  In the Millennial Kingdom, all of that sinful past is erased.  Through the work of Messiah on their behalf, they could be set before God as a spotless bride!  THAT is grace!
    • Do we understand that this is what Jesus does for us, too?  Because of the cross & resurrection, our sinful past is erased.  It’s completely dealt with & done away with.  We WERE stained, but NOW we’re spotless – all because of Jesus.
    • We also look forward to a new name.  (Rev 2:17, 3:12)
  • Earlier Isaiah had written of how he (and the nation) would rejoice in the Lord.  Notice the change.  Here, we’re told of how God rejoices over the nation.  “So shall your God rejoice over you.”  God rejoices over His people! God rejoices over YOU!  THAT is how clean the Lord Jesus has made you!  There is no anger from the Lord over you – only delight & joy.

6 I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; They shall never hold their peace day or night. You who make mention of the LORD, do not keep silent, 7 And give Him no rest till He establishes And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth.

  • Not only will God delight over His people, He will protect His people.  In the current day of Jerusalem, the watchmen on the wall failed.  They did not warn the people of the danger that approached, and even when they did, they were unable to fend off the Babylonian invasion.  Not so in the Millennial Kingdom.  In that day, Zion will be under the personal protection of Christ Jesus.  There will be no sneak attacks upon Israel – there won’t be any rockets falling into the cities or suicide bombers.  All of that will be past as King Jesus gives His personal protection to the people.  God will see His people exalted among the earth, and invites the Jews to continue to ask about it: “And give Him no rest till He establishes…”  IOW, pray for this time of victory, and keep praying for it!  Don’t stop seeking the Lord for this time until He brings it to pass.
  • Does the Church have a similar invitation?  Yes!  We’re to continue to ask God for Jesus’ soon return.  That’s exactly what the petition of “Maranatha” means: “Come, Lord Jesus!”  Ask & keep asking for that day.  Give God no rest in prayer.  Not that God desires a rest, but He desires that we would continually seek His face in this.  Don’t stop looking for the Lord’s return – don’t stop praying for God’s will to be done among the earth & for the fulfillment of this age.

8 The LORD has sworn by His right hand And by the arm of His strength: “Surely I will no longer give your grain As food for your enemies; And the sons of the foreigner shall not drink your new wine, For which you have labored. 9 But those who have gathered it shall eat it, And praise the LORD; Those who have brought it together shall drink it in My holy courts.”

  • God reiterates the surety of His promise.  All of these things that He had promised Israel WILL come to pass.  He has “sworn” to see it done.  There is coming a time that Israel would no longer be ruled by other nations, but they would be able to eat the fruit of their own labors to the praise of God.  One day Israel will again be in a right relationship with God Almighty, and they will worship God rightly in the holy courts of Zion.
  • Prepare to see the blessing (vss. 10-12)

10 Go through, Go through the gates! Prepare the way for the people; Build up, Build up the highway! Take out the stones, Lift up a banner for the peoples!

  • There are two commands for preparation.  First, the people were to prepare to return.  The roads needed to made clear for the nation to return in victory to their homeland.  There were three major waves of return from the Babylonian exile, but none of them were truly complete.  There has been a major return of Jews back to the land of Israel today – but even in modern times it is not complete (and the world certainly has not welcomed their return).  But it WILL happen.  The people will go through the gates of Millennial Zion as the nation returns to Israel.  Their hearts needed to be prepared at any time for it to come to pass.

11 Indeed the LORD has proclaimed To the end of the world: “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Surely your salvation is coming; Behold, His reward is with Him, And His work before Him.’ ”

  • The second command of preparation was to prepare to see their King.  They needed to be ready to see the God of their salvation.  He would be coming to them, and He would be bringing His reward with Him.
  • Israel was not prepared for the first coming of their King.  A small number received Jesus as the Messiah that He is, but the nation as a whole rejected Him.  But He will be coming again – and the nation needs to be prepared for that day.  They will see their King coming with great power and glory, and although they will mourn their sin, they will still look forward to see their salvation approach.
  • Israel was called to prepare in two ways; as the Church we have but one.  Are we prepared to see our King?  Are we prepared for the day in which He will call us home?  Be assured that He IS coming, and although no one knows the day or the hour, we need to be ready at all times.

12 And they shall call them The Holy People, The Redeemed of the LORD; And you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.

  • The reward for those who are prepared: salvation!  These are those who trusted the sure promises of God & prepared themselves to see His coming.  They are made “holy” by His grace – they are “redeemed” from their sin – they are personally “sought out” by the Lord – never “forsaken” by Him.  Why?  Because of the sure promises of the Messiah.

Conclusion:
God does not break His word!  God keeps every promise that He has ever made.  If there is anything that can be trusted, it is the promise of the Lord Jesus Christ – of that we can be sure.

Israel could trust that the Messiah would come for them in a magnificent mission of mercy – they could trust that He would come in power and marvelous defense for the people in which He delighted – they could trust that God would redeem them and seek them out.

This is what our Lord Jesus has already done with us.  He came on a mission of mercy to seek us out, and we were found by Him.  He gave us liberty from our sin, and gave us a garment of praise instead of the burden of death.  He gave us a glorious future inheritance, in which we know will spend eternity with our Savior.  We have been placed under His protection and strength, and we can be sure He delights over us. 

Do you trust Jesus to keep His word?  Do you trust Him to faithfully see His promises fulfilled?  When He says He delights over you, do you believe Him for what He says?  When He says He is coming quickly, do you wait for Him expectantly?  Beloved, renew your trust in your Savior!  He has already shown Himself faithful on your behalf, and there is so much more in store…and He will not rest until it is done.

Invitation to Peace

Posted: December 19, 2013 in Isaiah

Isaiah 56-57, “Invitation to Peace”

Were you ever the last one picked for a team?  When I was young, I was the least athletic kid in the school, and I could almost guarantee I would be the last one (or almost the last one) picked for kickball, or whatever sport we were playing.  It never feels good to be the last one because you know deep down that no one really wanted you, and they only picked you because they didn’t have a choice.  Sometimes, they’d rather exclude you entirely.

When it came to the ancient worship of God, there were some people that were least likely to be picked – some that were totally excluded from the worship of God.  Perhaps they had something physically wrong with them – perhaps they just were born into a family that was outside of Israel.  Although from the very beginning, God always made a way for people to worship Him (even through provisions in the law), practically speaking many people were totally excluded from worship.

All that would change after the coming of Messiah – the Servant of God.  He would make it possible for anyone who was left on the outside to be brought on the inside to worship.  He would even make it possible for those who were at war against God to be given peace with God.  All peoples (Jew AND Gentile) would receive a grand invitation to peace!

Isaiah 56

  • God’s blessing to the righteous (vss. 1-2)

1 Thus says the LORD: “Keep justice, and do righteousness, For My salvation is about to come, And My righteousness to be revealed. 2 Blessed is the man who does this, And the son of man who lays hold on it; Who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And keeps his hand from doing any evil.”

  • Thus says the LORD”: We know the Lord God (Yahweh) is speaking, but to whom is He speaking?  Who’s the audience?  Generally speaking, Ch. 55 addressed both Jews and Gentiles.  All peoples everywhere were invited to come and taste of the abundant life that God offered through the work of the Suffering Servant… 
  • More to the immediate context, Ch. 55 ended with the promise of blessing that God would give to Israel in the Millennial Kingdom.  They had a promise of being led out from Babylon with joy & peace, and would eventually experience the blessing of all of creation rejoicing over them.  It’s with all of that in mind that Ch. 56 opens with God speaking – thus for now, He’s speaking to believing Israel.  He’ll address the Gentiles later, but He starts with His covenant people – which is only right, because salvation proceeds from the Jews, and then goes into all the world.
  • What does God say to the nation?  To act & to trust.  Notice the emphasis on action/doing.  Those who had faith in God and the covenant He had made with the nation are called to KEEP having faith, and to KEEP relying upon the covenant promises of God.  Their actions didn’t give them a right relationship with their God, but it certainly was the outgrowth of it.  Because they were immersed in the covenant relationship with God, they acted according to that covenant, so things like “justice” & “righteousness” & restraining from “evil” mattered to them.
    • That’s always the way it is.  We do not prove ourselves righteous through our obedience to God; God makes us righteous by the work of Jesus & because of that, we desire to live obediently unto Him.  Our work is always a response to His work.
    • Once we’ve started, don’t stop!  The whole exhortation to believing Israel is for them to keep it up.  The blessing of God would come to the person “who does this,” continuing to live in a manner that is glorifying to God.  The last thing we want as believers in Christ is to only have the “good old days” to look back to.  “I used to share my faith…  I told people about the Lord…  I used to step out in faith…  This is the way we used to do it…”  Why would we ever leave these things in the past tense?  Why don’t we worship God with the same passion as we did when we first got saved?  Why don’t we share our faith, or reach out to others as we once did?  As long as we draw breath, we still have the ongoing opportunity to serve our Lord.  We’ve begun this race – let us not be those who stop halfway through!
  • It’s not just acting; it’s trusting.  Why were they to keep doing these things? “For My salvation is about to come, and My righteousness to be revealed.”  God’s deliverance was right around the corner!  For those who would be in the Babylonian captivity, Isaiah’s prophecy is a wonderful promise and reminder to them that they would always be held captive.  It would seem like a lifetime in the present, but in the grand scheme of things, it was only a moment.  God’s salvation was at hand!  And more than that – the prophecy ultimately looks forward to the Suffering Servant of Ch. 53.  In Christ, truly the righteousness of God is revealed!
  • How does the Sabbath relate to all of this?  For Israel, it was an outward symbol of their covenant with God.  They had the inward sign of circumcision – outwardly, it was keeping the Sabbath day holy (per the 4th commandment).  For them to maintain the purity of the Sabbath day was to show themselves set apart from the nations that surrounded them, and also (perhaps primarily) to demonstrate their trust in God’s provision for them.  They did not need to labor 7 days a week; they could work 6 days & rest on the 7th, knowing that God would provide for their needs.  God had rested on the 7th day of creation as an example, and gave that to His covenant people as a perpetual reminder that they could rest in His work for them.
    • Ultimately, the Sabbath rest points to our rest in Jesus.  Jesus IS our Sabbath!  He has done all the work that is needed for our salvation, and He is the only One who can provide it for us.  We keep the Sabbath by resting in Him – by believing upon Him as Lord, knowing that we cannot earn or work our way into the favor of God.
    • All of this strikes a wonderful balance in vss. 1-2.  There is work for the believer to do, but there is rest that is to remain undefiled.  God has made His rest available because His salvation is assured – the work that the believer does is all in response to this wonderful promise.
  • God’s blessing to foreigners of faith (vss. 3-8)

3 Do not let the son of the foreigner Who has joined himself to the LORD Speak, saying, “The LORD has utterly separated me from His people”; Nor let the eunuch say, “Here I am, a dry tree.”

  • God began with Israel, but He continued with an invitation to the Gentiles.  These are not ordinary foreigners, but foreigner who had “joined themselves to the LORD.”  IOW – these were foreigners of faith!  In Ch. 55, God had invited Gentiles to come to Him to experience grace & abundant life, and now He addresses those who came.
  • Once the foreigners came, they were truly part of the family.  Once they had faith, they weren’t to be excluded.  In the days that the temple stood in Israel, unconverted Gentiles were forbidden from entering the temple grounds, as were “eunuchs” and other people who were physically mutilated in some way.  Although it might seem strange to our ears today, we need to remember that this was a demonstration of the holiness and purity that God desired for His people.  We are not mutilated in Christ; we are whole.  A mutilated man could not serve as a priest, because that is not who we are in our salvation.  In Christ, we are new creations, fully cleansed, pure, and holy in His sight.  The OT priesthood was a shadow of the NT priesthood of believers in that way.
  • The wonderful part of this promise from God in vs. 3 is that the OT restriction from the foreigner & mutilated is removed.  How so?  Because it all looks forward to the work that Jesus (the Suffering Servant) had done on their behalf.  In Christ, the foreigner is not “separated” from the people of God.  The eunuch is not forbidden from experiencing the blessing of the Lord.  No – those who are joined to God through Christ experience the fullness of the blessings that are found in Him.  Galatians 3:28, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." []
  • In the broader context, this would seem to be referring beyond the Church age & into the Millennial Kingdom.  When Jesus comes back in His 2nd Advent, He not only saves the nation of Israel out of the Great Tribulation, but He saves all the foreigners who had come to faith through their witness.  The foreigners & physically deformed are not going to be excluded from the worship of God in the Kingdom, as they might have been in ancient Israel.  During the Millennium, all those who worship Jesus as Messiah will have glorious access to be able to worship Him freely.

4 For thus says the LORD: “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths, And choose what pleases Me, And hold fast My covenant, 5 Even to them I will give in My house And within My walls a place and a name Better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name That shall not be cut off.

  • Notice the impossibility of the promise – that’s what makes it so grand from the Lord!  A eunuch cannot physically have children as a result of his mutilation, yet God promises that those who have faith in Him will have a posterity that will be even better than children.  Their name would not live on through their descendants, but God would “give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.
  • How so?  Their blessing is in God Himself!  It is in His “house & walls” that God would give this everlasting name.  God would cause them to be blessed in such a way that their name would last & last.  To a culture in which some of the greatest blessings were children/future generations, God promises that these people would not be left out of the blessings of the Millennial Kingdom.
  • The blessings of the outcast eunuch are also seen in the other foreign Gentiles.  See vs. 6…

6 “Also the sons of the foreigner Who join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him, And to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants— Everyone who keeps from defiling the Sabbath, And holds fast My covenant— 7 Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

  • Notice several things here that are said of these foreign believers, and were said of the eunuch believers as well.
    • They are joined to God.  They are not excluded from a relationship with God simply because they were born outside of the tribes of Israel; they are actively with the Lord.  Like Ruth who left her pagan society to join herself to God of her beloved mother-in-law Naomi, so too do these “sons of the foreigner…join themselves to the LORD, to serve Him.”  It is a forsaking of the past & a clinging to God.  (A wonderful picture of repentance!)
    • They love God.  It’s not that they merely know facts about Yahweh God or that they have the basic theological arguments down; they truly “love the name of the LORD.”  There is sincerity in their faith.  They did not convert at the point of a sword, but in recognition of the grace and majesty of the God they chose to love.
    • They are resting in God.  Like Israel, they are committed to keeping the “Sabbath” holy – not to defile it.  The Sabbath day is a sign of Israel’s covenant, but the Sabbath rest is essential for ALL true believers.  If we do not truly find our rest in Jesus, we do not have rest at all.
    • They are blessed by God.  Notice it is God who bring them to His “holy mountain.”  This would seem to be a reference to Mt. Zion, where the temple stood.  The whole idea is again that God does not exclude them from relationship with Him, but actively brings them in as full believers.  They don’t stand on the outside separated from worship, but they are brought in as full believers.
    • They have joy in God.  To be in relationship with God is to have joy in the Lord!  It’s not a staid, stone-faced religion.  It’s not a dour, can’t-wait-for-church-to-be-over sort of thing.  God delights in His people, and He wants His people to delight in Him!  There’s a reason that God set up the Hebrew calendar to work around several major feasts – they were times of celebration in which people specifically set aside time to rejoice in their Lord.  (It’s a good reminder for us at Christmas, not to be so busy, but to rejoice!)
    • They worship God.  They were invited to bring their offerings & sacrifices before the Lord…again, an amazing thing for groups of people that were once restricted from even entering the temple grounds.  Because of God’s grace, they could worship Him freely through their sacrifice.
  • This relationship was originally written for the foreigners who have faith in God through the Millennial age, but the promise applies to us as well!
  • The last part of vs. 7 might sound familiar…Jesus quoted it when He cleansed the temple in Jerusalem.  Matthew 21:12–13, "(12) Then Jesus went into the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves. (13) And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”" [] Interestingly enough, immediately after saying this in the temple as Jesus threw out the money changers, He started to heal the blind & the lame.  All of those who were outcasts & kept OUT of the temple were the ones Jesus healed so that they could come IN to the temple & worship.

8 The Lord GOD, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, says, “Yet I will gather to him Others besides those who are gathered to him.”

  • Our God is a gatherer!  He gathers Jews & Gentiles, and this was His plan all along.  He certainly wanted to gather Israel back to Himself, but His plan was always far bigger than just Israel.  God desired to gather all people everywhere, saving us from our sins & reconciling us back to Himself.  Jesus seems to reference this idea when He refers to Himself as the Good Shepherd.  John 10:14–16, "(14) I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. (15) As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. (16) And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd." []
  • The outcasts were to be gathered, but there were some who were already among His people that needed to be cast out.  See vs. 9…
  • God’s condemnation of lazy leaders (vss. 9-12)

9 All you beasts of the field, come to devour, All you beasts in the forest. 10 His watchmen are blind, They are all ignorant; They are all dumb dogs, They cannot bark; Sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.

  • God seems to be speaking to the armies of Babylon to come forth and bring the destruction He had long foretold.  Jerusalem had leaders, prophets, and others who ought to have been serving as “watchmen,” yet they had fallen down on the job.  Like a lazy watchdog who merely looks up when the burglar comes to the door, so were the religious leaders of the Jews.  They were supposed to be keeping guard, but they did nothing.  Not only did they not warn of the Babylonian danger on the horizon, but they did nothing to warn the people against their own sin against God.
  • Men and women of God are not supposed to stay silent!  When there is danger approaching, we need to be vigilant and sound the alarm…especially those who are tasked as under-shepherds of the flock of Jesus Christ.

11 Yes, they are greedy dogs Which never have enough. And they are shepherds Who cannot understand; They all look to their own way, Every one for his own gain, From his own territory. 12 “Come,” one says, “I will bring wine, And we will fill ourselves with intoxicating drink; Tomorrow will be as today, And much more abundant.”

  • Instead of praying for mercy – instead of petitioning the people for change – the shepherds of Israel were partying the night away.  They had neglected one of their primary responsibilities: representing God & His word to His people.  The Biblical record shows men like Jeremiah & Ezekiel virtually standing alone against the many false prophets that were routinely accepted into the royal council.  The kings despised the true word of God and instead chose to listen to men who would just tickle their ears.
  • There are many who would do the same today.  They would ignore what the word of God clearly teaches because it’s easier or more profitable to teach contrary to Scripture.  They’d rather water down the truth in order to enjoy the pleasures of our culture, than to boldly speak the word of God with all of the consequences that come as a result.  How are they viewed by God? As “greedy dogs.”  Far better to be pleasing in the eyes of God than pleasing in the eyes of man!

Isaiah 57

  • The righteous man rejected by the wicked, but not by God (vss. 1-2)

1 The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil. 2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness.

  • Carrying on the same thought from Ch. 56, as the irresponsible shepherds & greedy dogs experience the material wealth of their age, those who are truly “righteous” die.  They perish & “are taken away” – and seemingly no one cares.  The people ignore their warnings, and they ignore their plight, just as Jeremiah was left to die in a dank prison prior to the Babylonian invasion. (Jer 38)
  • They may have been ignored by the people, but they were not forgotten by God.  God knows those who are righteous, and promised that they “shall enter into peace…[and] rest.”  They might experience trial in this life, but God would give them His peace in life everlasting.  God does not forget about His saints!
    • That promise remains true, and is the hope of every single persecuted believer around the world today.
  • Condemnation of the idolaters of Israel (vss. 3-13)

3 “But come here, You sons of the sorceress, You offspring of the adulterer and the harlot! 4 Whom do you ridicule? Against whom do you make a wide mouth And stick out the tongue? Are you not children of transgression, Offspring of falsehood, 5 Inflaming yourselves with gods under every green tree, Slaying the children in the valleys, Under the clefts of the rocks?

  • The people who rejected the true prophets of God are condemned for their wickedness.  They did not consider the plight of the righteous, choosing instead to glory in false prophets and false gods.  Instead of heeding the warnings of God, they mocked the true prophets, condemning them to prison and death.  God was not blind to their sin.  Who were they to condemn?  They were the wicked ones & the ones truly deserving of condemnation.
  • How was their wickedness mainly seen?  In their idolatry.  They went to the “green trees” and “valleys” and “rocks” engaging in their idolatrous pagan practices, even engaging in the horrendous practice of child sacrifice.
  • These were the people supposedly in a covenant relationship with God!  These were the men and women who had a reputation for being called after God’s name.  Yet they did not know the Lord at all.  They acted just as bad (or worse) than the heathens around them.  Everything they did was rooted in their idolatry.

6 Among the smooth stones of the stream Is your portion; They, they, are your lot! Even to them you have poured a drink offering, You have offered a grain offering. Should I receive comfort in these?

  • They gave drink offerings, but not to the Lord.  They gave grain offerings, but not to Yahweh God.  They had a veneer of religion about them, but they did not engage in true worship of the true God.  How could God be pleased with that?  He can’t!  Every day people believe that they can worship God in whatever manner that they choose, or they can worship God by any name they desire.  They think as long as they are sincere in their worship (whatever it may be), that God will be pleased because He just cares about our sincerity – not what we call Him.  It would be as if your child walked up to another married couple & started addressing them as their parents.  Would you be honored or outraged?  How we worship God matters!  We are called to worship the Lord in spirit and truth, and if we don’t do that, then we’re not worshipping the Lord at all.
    • So how can we know we’re worshipping God rightly?  When we go through Jesus.  He is the way, the truth, and the life.  (Jn 14:6)

7 “On a lofty and high mountain You have set your bed; Even there you went up To offer sacrifice. 8 Also behind the doors and their posts You have set up your remembrance; For you have uncovered yourself to those other than Me, And have gone up to them; You have enlarged your bed And made a covenant with them; You have loved their bed, Where you saw their nudity.

  • How does God view idolatry?  As gross adultery.  This is a theme that repeatedly comes up in the later prophets – especially Ezekiel & Hosea.  God had offered to provide Israel everything they needed as a loving caring husband.  Instead, the nation ran off to other paramours, and prostituted herself with false gods and other religious systems.

9 You went to the king with ointment, And increased your perfumes; You sent your messengers far off, And even descended to Sheol. 10 You are wearied in the length of your way; Yet you did not say, ‘There is no hope.’ You have found the life of your hand; Therefore you were not grieved.

  • Israel when to great extents to court the false gods of the Gentile nations.  King Manasseh of Judah went so far as to set up carved images of false gods in the Jerusalem temple, and even sacrifice his own children in pagan rituals.  Earlier, King Ahaz had seen pagan temples in Damascus, and brought back the design to install in the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.  What Isaiah writes by the word of God is not mere picturesque language – it is the actual experience of the idolatry of the people.
  • Although the nation experienced brief times of revival (under Kings Hezekiah & Josiah, etc.), overall the nation remained in its sin.  They “were not grieved” by what they had done, believing it all to be worth it.  After all, the other nations of the worlds worshipped these gods, and it seemed to help them – why shouldn’t the Jews?  They had forgotten that they had a covenant with the One True God, and if only they had obeyed that covenant, God would have blessed them immensely!

11 “And of whom have you been afraid, or feared, That you have lied And not remembered Me, Nor taken it to your heart? Is it not because I have held My peace from of old That you do not fear Me?

  • They had no fear of God – no reverence of His holiness.  They did not remember the blessings and protection that God had given them in the past.  Worse yet, they used the mercy of God as an excuse for their idolatry.  God had “held His peace,” giving them opportunity after opportunity to repent, and the Jews wasted it.  They seemed to think that because God didn’t act, God couldn’t act.
  • Sadly enough, that’s a commentary on our own culture today.  People look at the fact that Jesus promised 2000 years ago that He would return, and so far He hasn’t.  As a result, they’ve come to the conclusion that because Jesus hasn’t come back yet, He won’t.  They believe that since God hasn’t shown up as Jesus, that God doesn’t exist at all.  They’ve used the mercy of God as their excuse for their rebellion and idolatry.  God has mercifully restrained His wrath, allowing people every opportunity to come to faith – after all, when Jesus comes back in power and glory, it will be too late!  NOW is the time to repent; not later.  Yet they’ve used God’s mercy as an excuse for their lack of reverence.

12 I will declare your righteousness And your works, For they will not profit you. 13 When you cry out, Let your collection of idols deliver you. But the wind will carry them all away, A breath will take them. But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, And shall inherit My holy mountain.”

  • God had known exactly what His people had done, and He would let them suffer the consequences of it.  When the Babylonians came in as beasts (as they would), then God would let the people cry out to their false gods for deliverance.  And the green trees & rocks & idols would provide exactly what they were capable of providing: nothing.  The people chose to trust in idols?  Fine – then let their “collection of idols deliver” them.  God would give them over to their sin.
  • However, there was a different promise from God for those who trusted in Him.  All the nation would suffer the devastation of the Babylonians, but God knew the remnant who truly had faith.  God would give them a possession and an inheritance – if not in the immediate future, then certainly in the heavenly kingdom.
  • Invitation to repentance and peace (vss. 14-21)

14 And one shall say, “Heap it up! Heap it up! Prepare the way, Take the stumbling block out of the way of My people.”

  • The tone changes quite a bit, going from condemnation to invitation.  God had previously addressed those who were steadfast in their idolatrous ways, but now He turns His attention to those who listened to the call of repentance, and understood their need to respond to God’s grace.  God would take away every obstacle to their repentance, freely allowing them to turn in faith to Him.
  • It’s always one step back to the Lord for those who repent!  God will often discipline us in our sin, allowing us to experience the consequences of our actions – but there is no hindrance to our repentance.  That is God’s great desire for us!  No matter how far we might walk away from Jesus, all it takes is for us is one 180-degree turn as we humble ourselves before our Lord & Savior.

15 For thus says the High and Lofty One Who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, With him who has a contrite and humble spirit, To revive the spirit of the humble, And to revive the heart of the contrite ones.

  • What an incredible contrast!  The “High and Lofty One” dwells with “the humble.”  The One who is high & lifted up willingly invites the ones who are brought to the lowest dust to come and dwell in His presence.  The majesty & condescension of God on grand display! And if that weren’t enough, the High & Lofty One lowered Himself to the point of becoming a man when God the Son became Incarnate.  THAT is the wonder of Christmas!
  • What will God do with the humble?  “Revive” them.  They were dead in their sins & transgressions.  They had placed themselves square in the sight of the wrath of God.  Their sin had earned them the wage of death.  But now?  Now they live!  God gives them grace & life.  Those who humble themselves in godly sorrow are lifted up out of that sorrow by the High & Lofty One.  Our gracious God lifts our head, and takes us from grief to joy.
    • This is what awaits those who repent!  Christian, is there a sin you’ve been holding on to?  Is there a guilt you haven’t confessed before the Lord?  You’ve likely been weighed down in sorrow & grief, and our God offers you something so much better than that.  He will revive your spirit & your heart!

16 For I will not contend forever, Nor will I always be angry; For the spirit would fail before Me, And the souls which I have made. 17 For the iniquity of his covetousness I was angry and struck him; I hid and was angry, And he went on backsliding in the way of his heart. 18 I have seen his ways, and will heal him; I will also lead him, And restore comforts to him And to his mourners.

  • God HAD been angry with His people, and rightly so…that’s what the first part of this chapter went to so much detail about.
  • Yet His anger would not last forever.  God’s anger would cease because of His people.  Unless there was an end to God’s anger, there would be no end to God’s punishment (which is how we know Hell is eternal).  But there IS an end to God’s anger.  Where?  The cross!
  • For the Jews, now was no longer a time for God’s wrath, but a time for healing and restoration.  In the immediate context, God would bring His people back from Babylonian captivity.  In the greater context, God would send the Servant who would suffer on their behalf and offer them true healing & forgiveness.

19 “I create the fruit of the lips: Peace, peace to him who is far off and to him who is near,” Says the LORD, “And I will heal him.”

  • What does God offer the truly repentant?  “Peace.”  Not just to Israel, but “peace to him who is far off and to him who is near.”  REAL peace!  We cannot have peace without God, but with God through Christ, we can experience the peace that passes understanding.  Before we knew Jesus, we warred against God, always rebelling against our Creator.  But in Christ, now Jesus Himself is our peace, and He has reconciled us to the One who gave us physical life & who offers eternal life.  It’s no wonder that during the angel’s announcement to the shepherds in Bethlehem, they said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Lk 2:14)  In Christ, we are healed of the pain and separation of our sin as we experience the ultimate peace of God.

20 But the wicked are like the troubled sea, When it cannot rest, Whose waters cast up mire and dirt. 21 “There is no peace,” Says my God, “for the wicked.”

  • The wicked are different.  Unlike the repentant, there will never be a lasting peace for the wicked.  They are tossed to & fro like waves on the sea, never experiencing the calm peaceful grace of God.  There is no rest for the wicked – no peace for their souls.
  • Yet the good news is the peace IS available for all.  If we remain in wickedness there is no peace, but no one is forced to remain in wickedness.  We are all invited to repent and experience the true peace of God through Jesus Christ.

Conclusion:
The Gentiles had been excluded from worship – the eunuchs had been excluded from worship – even the Jews had excluded themselves through their blatant idolatry and sin.  Yet every single one of them could be reconciled to God through His grace.  Every single one of them could experience the peace that would come through the work of Jesus the Messiah.  Israel would experience deliverance in the short-term from Babylon, and all of them would experience peace in the long-term during the Millennium.

God has offered all of us peace – do we live in it in daily experience?  As born-again believers, do we truly know the daily peace of Jesus, or do we practically live as if we’re still battling against Him?  Obviously we’re going to have temptations and the battle against our flesh – but far better to battle against our flesh than to battle against Jesus!  Jesus has come that we might have life – that we might have peace.  May we be those who experience it!