Saturday, February 13, 2021

Isaiah 53 - The Suffering Servant

As I mentioned above, the last three verses of chapter 52 fit with the theme of chapter 53 better than they fit with chapter 52. The ESV and HCSB have a subtitle above chapter 52:13 referring to the suffering Servant, which is the theme of chapter 53. John Gill agrees with me on this - he was a pretty good nut.

Isaiah 52:13-15 (HCSB) See, My Servant will act wisely; He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted. Just as many were appalled at You— His appearance was so disfigured that He did not look like a man, and His form did not resemble a human being—so He will sprinkle many nations. Kings will shut their mouths because of Him, For they will see what had not been told them, and they will understand what they had not heard.

The Servant will act wisely - none as wise as Christ Jesus; His wisdom is spoken of in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Just as the serpent was raised up in the wilderness, so will the Son of man be lifted up and glorified by the Father. In spite of how God views His Son, man was appalled at His appearance - so marred by the creature was the Creator that He no longer appeared as a man. A couple of chapters back we read of how part of this took place: Isaiah 50:6 "I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting."  In his excellent book, The Simple Gospel, Jon Caldwell has a chapter on the Shroud of Turin in which he comments on this verse: "The Hebrew word למרטים (L’Maratiym), which is translated “plucked off the hair,” literally means “to make bald.” Jesus Christ didn’t just have a tuft of His beard pulled out; His entire beard was plucked from His face!" Jewish men weren't supposed to even trim their beards. To be bald-faced was a mark of shame and/or mourning. See Isaiah 151-2 for Hebrew shaving their head and beards in mourning; see Jeremiah 48:37 for Gentiles being shaved head and face as a sign of defeat. Jesus appeared as one defeated, mourning His circumstance. We know His vision was fixed on the glory that awaited Him beyond the cross as He entrusted Himself to the trustworthy Judge.

And so even though He appeared to be shamefully defeated, He would sprinkle many nations - as the Hebrews would sprinkle blood on the altar (Lev 4:6, 17) or water on an unclean person to cleanse him (Numbers 19:18-21), yet with a more sure sacrifice that would ensure the redemption of every chosen one.

Kings will be silent, they will see what had not been told to them, they will understand that which they had not heard.  Because of their response, we see these "kings" as representative of Gentiles who, as Paul mentioned, did not have the oracle of God - the advantage was to the Jews (Romans 3:1-2). But when Christ came, He was displayed to all and His disciples went forth with His gospel and these "wise men" had their minds and hearts opened to comprehend that which had been a mystery prior to the fullness of time. Now the high and mighty men are low and humble, see Him as He is - God in human flesh, beaten and tortured by those He created, suffering the wrath of God for those He came to save. How can we not be in awe of Him!

Isaiah 53:1 (HCSB) Who has believed what we have heard? And who has the arm of the LORD been revealed to?

This question reveals what we read about everywhere: only a remnant will be saved. As man sees it, not many hear and believe. Isaiah was told he would preach to a people that would not understand or see rightly. So WHO would believe what Isaiah had heard, to whom has He revealed His strong arm of salvation? We've read much in Isaiah about the strong arm of God; it was His arm that brought Israel out of Egypt in victory; Mary's song in Luke 1 testifies "He has done a mighty deed with His arm; He has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts." Whether it's salvation or judgment, the strong arm of the Lord prevails over the hearts and souls of every man.

Isaiah 53:2-3 (HCSB) He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground. He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was. He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him.

Recall that Isaiah lived and wrote more than 700 years before Christ; long before the Romans had invented crucifixion as the most cruel way possible to kill a man. Jesus the man grew up as a human, learned obedience; was brought out of Egypt to live in the backwater town of Nazareth. As a child and young man, Jesus was nothing to look at - reminiscent of David in comparison to his brothers. When those who despised Him rejected Him and demanded He be crucified, claiming they had no king but Caesar, that His blood be on them AND their children (Matt 27:25) - He was beaten, scourged, mocked, and hung on the tree. While every man who was crucified suffered, Jesus was not merely a man and His suffering was vastly worse than those on either side of Him. As Isaiah 50:6 portrayed, He was beaten so badly He was difficult to look upon. Thousands who in Jerusalem for the Jewish rites came by to see the site - and they mocked Him and shouted for Him to save Himself if He was God, proving He was right when said Satan was their father. They said the same thing he has spoken to Jesus. Only a few saw Him for what He is - the Roman centurion, who had seen the horrible butchery of war was struck with true awe as he beheld the Son of God. Saints - are you still in awe of Who He is? Let us encourage one another to see Him rightly and behold Him in His majesty, for a savior that does not inspire such a response is not a Savior.

Isaiah 53:4-6 (HCSB) Yet He Himself bore our sicknesses, and He carried our pains; but we in turn regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. We all went astray like sheep; we all have turned to our own way; and the LORD has punished Him for the iniquity of us all.

Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,

See Him dying on the tree!

'Tis the Christ by man rejected;

Yes, my soul, 'tis He, 'tis He!

'Tis the long-expected prophet,

David's Son, yet David's Lord;

By His Son, God now has spoken

Tis the true and faithful Word.

Great hymns and spiritual songs will point us to the biblical Christ, reveal natural man's true condition, and humble the child of God. When God in human flesh submitted Himself to the varied punishments meted out by man, this was to show man something of the suffering He would undergo. But the deepest stroke that pierced him was the stroke that Justice gave. And man looked upon the Lam of God as He hung on judgment's tree and most saw Him as deserving it.

But, Isaiah reminds us, He was pierced for OUR transgressions - He had none of His own! He who had NO SIN was MADE SIN so we might become the righteousness of God! The punishment He received brought us peace with God - for no sinful creature can approach Him. None but those clothed in the righteousness of Christ can approach, can have peace with the Father. Because the Son was stricken, smitten, and afflicted for us! The healing He provides is the glorious truth of our sin being put away. A pox on all who claim He suffered to cure ailments of the flesh! Eternal life if the healing He brings!

To whom did He give this healing? Not to the self-righteous (as if there were any!) but to the wretched! Like stupid sheep we wandered, seeking our own way. The only way we could be made right with God is for God to be punished in our place.

Ye who think of sin but lightly,

Nor suppose the evil great

Here may view its nature rightly,

Here its guilt may estimate.

Mark the sacrifice appointed,

See who bears the awful load;

'Tis the Word, the Lord's Anointed,

Son of Man and Son of God.

Isaiah 53:7-9 (HCSB) He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth. He was taken away because of oppression and judgment; and who considered His fate? For He was cut off from the land of the living; He was struck because of my people’s rebellion. They made His grave with the wicked and with a rich man at His death, although He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully.

Read 1 Peter 2:18ff to see the Apostle's treatment of this passage, applying it to the Christian life. The suffering of Christ is not merely and account of His death, it stands as the historical PROOF of God's redeeming love for His own and justice for the rebels.

How quick are we to defend ourselves when someone maligns us? We often deserve to be maligned and are overly self-defensive. The Creator being maligned by the creature! And He did not defend Himself, did not seek to avoid OUR punishment. Most people then - and now - fail to comprehend the necessity of the crucifixion; by human wisdom, it was "cosmic child abuse" (Sarah Young uses this term in her heretical book, The Shack).

Cut off from the land of the living - this term "cut off" refers to covenantal punishment, being separated from the community. Jesus died, didn't swoon, was not death only to His human nature. Jesus, the God-man, died - was cut off from the land of the living. This was because His people - recall that phrase? - had rebelled against His rule. We, like the rest, were children of wrath until His Spirit gave us life.

The Lord of glory was laid in a tomb as if He were nothing more than a dead man. Yet it was a rich man (a king who was made to see Him rightly?) that gave Him the tomb. All of this took place - the trial, the mocking, the scourging, the crucifixion, the wrath of God - even though He had done no violence, had spoken no deceit. These two things are the hallmark of rebels; they oppress the poor and deceive many in the marketplace. Things the Hebrew nation was noted for.

Isaiah 53:10-12 (HCSB) Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely. When You make Him a restitution offering, He will see His seed, He will prolong His days, and by His hand, the LORDs pleasure will be accomplished. He will see it out of His anguish, and He will be satisfied with His knowledge. My righteous Servant will justify many, and He will carry their iniquities. Therefore I will give Him the many as a portion, and He will receive the mighty as spoil, because He submitted Himself to death, and was counted among the rebels; yet He bore the sin of many and interceded for the rebels.

But because God set His redeeming love on His chosen ones, it PLEASED HIM to punish Jesus for our sins. It was, as the HCSB put it, SEVERE. God the Father made Him the Son a restitution offering to buy back His chosen ones. The Son was one with the Father before the cross and would be greatly glorified to be reunited with Him AFTER His work was accomplished (Heb 12:2).

From before time, the Godhead knew who the saints would be, the Son knew His seed - a large number of people from every nation, tribe, and language. Though low in the grave He lay, up from the grave He arose to an indestructible, eternal life - all according to the Father's will and for His glory, which He will not share with another. There is no doubt we benefit greatly from the entire plan of redemption as it applied to us. But do not lose sight of this fact: the first and primary reason for all of creation and whatever end each bit of it faces is to bring GLORY to the Father, GLORY to the Son, Glory to the Spirit - three in one! (tip of the hat to Shai Linne)

The Son would see all this afore (recall Heb 12:2) and be satisfied in doing the Father's will (He came for this purpose - John 6:38). The righteous, obedient Servant HAS justified many, He carried their sins to the cross (Col 2:14), and He was given the many - the justified ones - as a portion, a reward, a spoil.

Consider this, saints: Jesus the good shepherd was sent to seek and save that which was lost. He will bring every lost sheep into the sheepfold of God the Father - an offering to Him. And the Father gives back to the Son all those He purchased from hell as a reward for His faithful obedience! He submitted Himself to death, even death on the cross; earning that which was His from before time - the glory He had before the world existed (John 17:4-5).

The Son was counted among the rebels - scourged, beaten, and crucified; in so doing He bore the sin of many - His people - and interceded for the rebels that were chosen.

Dear brothers and sisters, I have no words to describe the horror of our sins, the heinous price paid by the Lord Jesus to buy us off sin's slave market. How often I fail to consider these things as I go through one mundane day after another. YET - these things Isaiah recorded ARE TRUE and were written for our instruction. Let us lay them up in our hearts and mediate thereupon, encouraging one another to look unto Christ daily and not think of sin lightly. We have a sure foundation, a secure refuge from the storm in Christ Jesus.

Here we have a firm foundation,

Here the refuge of the lost;

Christ's the Rock of our salvation,

His the name of which we boast.

Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,

Sacrifice to cancel guilt!

None shall ever be confounded

Who on him their hope have built.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Isaiah 52 - YHWH's Promised Redemption

Stephen Langton, remember that name. Nearly 900 years ago, Stephen Langton divided the Bible up into chapters. His decision as to where chapters 52 and 53 of Isaiah are divided is one of those things that make you go "hmmmmmm." This study will go through chapter 52 and verse 12; the last three verses belong to chapter 53.

Isaiah 52:1-2 (HCSB) “Wake up, wake up; put on your strength, Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the Holy City! For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer enter you. Stand up, shake the dust off yourself! Take your seat, Jerusalem. Remove the bonds from your neck, captive Daughter Zion.”

This passage starts off with yet another call for national Israel to WAKE UP! They are told to straighten up, recall to Whom they belong. For those that do not belong to God will be kept out. Recall to Whom you belong, get out of the dust and be seated in the heavenlies with Christ Jesus (Eph 2:4-7)! Those led off to captivity would be set free. Lo, we who have been captive to sin since our birth have BEEN set free by the promised One!

Isaiah 52:3-6 (HCSB) For this is what the LORD says: “You were sold for nothing, and you will be redeemed without silver.” For this is what the Lord GOD says: “At first My people went down to Egypt to live there, then Assyria oppressed them without cause. So now what have I here”— this is the LORDs declaration that My people are taken away for nothing? Its rulers wail”— this is the LORDs declaration and My name is continually blasphemed all day long. Therefore My people will know My name; therefore they will know on that day that I am He who says: Here I am."

Israel was banished to Babylon without price; she will be redeemed without price. Indeed, king Cyrus of Persia would pay dearly to have the Jewish people resettle in Jerusalem and rebuild her. The history of national Israel started with slavery to Egypt, and God redeemed them without pay, as Egypt paid dearly to send them away. Assyria had been used by God so many times to punish rebellious Israel, yet they had no justifiable reason for their actions. Now Babylon will take Israel into exile and this is YHWH's declaration - His people are taken away without payment and their rulers wail, for their life of comfort and luxury had been taken from them. This is YHWH's declaration, those people who looked to their creature comforts would profane His name and blaspheme Him, forgetting Who had redeemed them from Egypt and for Whose reputation.

We who have been redeemed from a life of sin must never forget Who purchased us and for what reason He did so. Not for our sake, were we chosen - before anyone was born. For the sake of His name and the glory He alone deserves has anyone been raised up from death unto life. National Israel was redeemed from fleshly slavery and would be again; spiritual Israel is being redeemed from sin, gaining spiritual freedom, and reconciliation with God. The last verse in this section reminds us that is His desire - for His people know Him rightly. Not as the pagans and demons know OF Him, but truly to know Him as He knows us. And so we will, by the work of the Son.

Isaiah 52:7-10 (HCSB) How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the herald, who proclaims peace, who brings news of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” The voices of your watchmen— they lift up their voices, shouting for joy together; for every eye will see when the LORD returns to Zion. Be joyful, rejoice together, you ruins of Jerusalem! For the LORD has comforted His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem. The LORD has displayed His holy arm in the sight of all the nations; all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God.

You ought to remember Paul's use of verse 7 in letter to the Romans, chapter 10. One who heralds good news is write it larger and run with the message so all can see it. Salvation is because God reigns - if He was the impotent god of so much bad theology, He would not be able to save; He would TRY to make salvation possible. To quote a line from a movie - that would be a "puny god." The watchmen who shout out with joy have a job to stay alert and let the city know when a messenger or an enemy approaches. Ezekiel has a couple of chapters devoted to these watchmen and we see in his writings (chapters 33 & 34) what their duties are and we'll find out how that relates to the charge elders in the New Covenant.

When Christ returns, when YHWH returns to Zion, everyone to the ends of the earth will know He has redeemed His people. We will rejoice with great joy to see Him, though everything of this realm is in ruins. Our time of toil and sweat and suffering will end. His strong arm will comfort His people and bring dismay to those who continue in their rebellion.

Isaiah 52:11-12 (HCSB) Leave, leave, go out from there! Do not touch anything unclean; go out from her, purify yourselves, you who carry the vessels of the LORD. For you will not leave in a hurry, and you will not have to take flight; because the LORD is going before you, and the God of Israel is your rear guard.

When national Israel is redeemed from Babylon and Persia, they will not be in a hurry as when they left Egypt. So it will be when He returns to gather all His redeemed unto Himself - no hurry on our part for YHWH goes before us, making our way straight and smooth. And He is our rear guard as well, making sure the slowest among us is not left behind.

All is from God, for God, and to God. We who are His will rejoice and praise Him for the mercy He has poured out on us. Again, take not for granted your standing with YHWH - we cannot stand of our own strength. He will hold us up - if we are His. Do you know Him?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Isaiah 51 - From Abraham to Christ, Salvation for Zion.

We learned about the obedient Servant in chapter 50; we now see the large back-story of redemption from Abraham to Christ. Isaiah speaks first, calling his kinsmen of the flesh to remember how the promise made to Abram would be fulfilled; God then speaks reminding Israel and us that He is truly, completely sovereign over everything.

Isaiah 51:1-3 (HCSB) Listen to Me, you who pursue righteousness, you who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut, and to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father, and to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain. When I called him, he was only one; I blessed him and made him many. For the LORD will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places, and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and melodious song.

There will be people who seek after what they think is God in every culture. Isaiah tells his kinsmen to see things correctly: they were nothing, raw material that God culled from the debris of mankind. Just like Abraham. There were nine generations between Adam and Noah; ten generations stood between Noah and the next Adam – Abram. Out of this sea of humanity, the world lost in re-learning how to communicate and rediscover their place, one genealogy is highlighted and traced down to a solitary man God would call to stand as the father of many nations; and the father of all the redeemed.

Just as God had blessed Abraham and made him many, so He will bless Zion - transforming her waste places, her wilderness, and her desert into comfortable, lush gardens where joy and gladness will be found; giving them cause to rejoice with thanksgiving and song. Since we know all good things come from God, do we give thanks to Him when we prosper; do we sing praises to Him for His kindness to us?

Isaiah 51:4-6 (HCSB) Pay attention to Me, My people, and listen to Me, My nation; for instruction will come from Me, and My justice for a light to the nations. I will bring it about quickly. My righteousness is near, My salvation appears, and My arms will bring justice to the nations. The coastlands will put their hope in Me, and they will look to My strength. Look up to the heavens, and look at the earth beneath; for the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment, and its inhabitants will die like gnats. But My salvation will last forever, and My righteousness will never be shattered.

God now speaks, calling His people, His nation to listen closely to His instructions - words from Himself and not from a man such a Benny Hinn (sorry, couldn't help myself). When God speaks, it is with authority. He will bring salvation to His own and justice to the nations, which will be a light in the darkness that they naturally crave. The arm of the Lord God is strong to save His people and strong to judge the nations. There is no hope apart from Him, so all who desire Him, have been called by Him, place their hope in Him; trusting His arm to bring salvation.

The end of this creation was declared long before Isaiah's time; he alluded to this passage: Psalm 102:25-26 (HCSB) "Long ago You established the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; all of them will wear out like clothing. You will change them like a garment, and they will pass away." This aligns with what Peter tells us of the end of this age: 2 Peter 3:10-13 (HCSB)  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief; on that day the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, the elements will burn and be dissolved, and the earth and the works on it will be disclosed. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, it is clear what sort of people you should be in holy conduct and godliness as you wait for and earnestly desire the coming of the day of God. The heavens will be on fire and be dissolved because of it, and the elements will melt with the heat. But based on His promise, we wait for the new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell.

In Isaiah, God spoke that His salvation and His righteousness will last forever - those who are saved inherit the new earth where His righteousness dwells. Fear not what Peter describes if you be in Christ. If you are not known by Him, do not deceive yourself - there is no other refuge.

Isaiah 51:7-8 (HCSB) Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, the people in whose heart is My instruction: do not fear disgrace by men, and do not be shattered by their taunts. For the moth will devour them like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will last forever, and My salvation for all generations.

God speaks to those who know Him, reminding all of us to not fear man - his arm is short and God can defeat them with mundane things. All flesh is like grass and withers and dies, eaten by moth and worms. BUT GOD and His righteousness will never end, He is stronger than all He has created; those He saves will never perish.

Isaiah 51:9-11 (HCSB) Wake up, wake up! Put on the strength of the LORD’s power. Wake up as in days past, as in generations of long ago. Wasn’t it You who hacked Rahab to pieces, who pierced the sea monster? Wasn’t it You who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the sea-bed into a road for the redeemed to pass over? And the redeemed of the LORD will return and come to Zion with singing, crowned with unending joy. Joy and gladness will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee.

Israel pleads with God to WAKE UP! To put on the strength of His power. This reminds me of the apostle's instruction for us to put on the full armor of God. No mortal can rely on his own strength, though he may have done mighty deeds when he was younger. Man cannot defeat nature, cannot rule the sea, or push the sea back to allow dry passage. God does these things, as we read in Psalm 89:9-10 "You rule the raging sea; when its waves surge, You still them. You crushed Rahab like one who is slain; You scattered Your enemies with Your powerful arm." Very similar language to what Isaiah used - the prophet was familiar with the Psalms. When the redeemed of YHWH remember His mighty deeds we will be refreshed, encouraged, and we should gather together as His chosen ones singing with joy and gladness - for sorrow will flee from us as we draw close to Him.

Isaiah 51:12-16 (HCSB) I—I am the One who comforts you. Who are you that you should fear man who dies, or a son of man who is given up like grass? But you have forgotten the LORD, your Maker, who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth. You are in constant dread all day long because of the fury of the oppressor, who has set himself to destroy. But where is the fury of the oppressor? The prisoner is soon to be set free; he will not die and go to the Pit, and his food will not be lacking. For I am Yahweh your God who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar— His name is Yahweh of Hosts. I have put My words in your mouth, and covered you in the shadow of My hand, in order to plant the heavens, to found the earth, and to say to Zion, “You are My people.”

There is so much here that we ought to ponder, devotedly and slowly. Have we lived so long as to have grown accustomed to the GLORY of being raised up in Christ? He alone comforts us - why do we forget Him? How can we forget Him, when we see the heaven and earth before us? Saints - do not live in dread because of what those of this world can do us. We are prisoners who have been set free, not destined for the pit; well fed and cared for. See Psalms 118:6, 1 Peter 1:24, Amos 9:6, Psalms 107:25, and Jeremiah 31:35; all of which declare the glorious might of God over all His creation and reveal us to nothing but dust.

Ponder who He is and what He has done for us. He has given us His Word and provided refuge for us in the strength of His hand. He will stretch out a new heavens and bring about a new earth and He will declare to His redeemed "You are My people!" We who were not His people are called His people! Please let that sink into your soul. If you are in Christ - that in itself a thought that ought to undo each of us - then you are His people. None of us deserve this status - we were not His people by birth, though His elect were marked out for salvation before time. You and I lived as though we should just eat and drink for tomorrow we wake up and do it again. BUT GOD, Who is rich in mercy, reached out at a point in time and gave you life, spiritual life; life that was grounded in God and able to see Him. His people. Oh how wonderful! Don't EVER get accustomed to being in Christ!

Isaiah 51:17-20 (HCSB) Wake yourself, wake yourself up! Stand up, Jerusalem, you who have drunk the cup of His fury from the hand of the LORD; you who have drunk the goblet to the dregs— the cup that causes people to stagger. There is no one to guide her among all the children she has raised; there is no one to take hold of her hand among all the offspring she has brought up. These two things have happened to you: devastation and destruction, famine and sword. Who will grieve for you? How can I comfort you? Your children have fainted; they lie at the head of every street like an antelope in a net. They are full of the LORD’s fury, the rebuke of your God.

Isaiah the prophet now speaks again to his kinsmen, urging them to wake up! By their long record of disobedience, they have been putting God to the test, storing up wrath. See how this reflects what the pagan nations do: Jeremiah 25:15-16 This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, said to me: “Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and make all the nations I am sending you to, drink from it. They will drink, stagger, and go out of their minds because of the sword I am sending among them.”

Drunkards have need of help to raise their children and they often cannot find it. Devastation and destruction, famine and death come upon drunks who have no one to grieve for them. So it is with those who are drunk on their rebellion, no comfort for them; no direction - like a beast caught in a net. These people, who are NOT called His people, are the object of YHWH's fury and His rebuke. At this, the mountains will flee! Oh sinner! While you have breath, cry out to your Creator for mercy!

Isaiah 51:21-23 (HCSB) So listen to this, afflicted and drunken one—but not with wine. This is what your Lord says— Yahweh, even your God, who defends His people— “Look, I have removed the cup of staggering from your hand; that goblet, the cup of My fury. You will never drink it again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you: Lie down, so we can walk over you. You made your back like the ground, and like a street for those who walk on it.

God calls to His people who have been drunk on their rebellion; He first reminds them Who He is: YHWH their God who defends His people. He takes away their love for rebellion, the cup of His fury. All who have been redeemed can never be exposed to His wrath. Those who will not be called "His people" will be made to drink the cup of His fury (as we read in Jeremiah, earlier). Those who have tormented His people will be made like a road His people walk on. This should remind you of the highway to Zion we've read about. Birds of prey will feast on them, no one will save them. They are not "His people."

Saints - being in union with Christ is our security. Because of that union, we who were once not called "His people" are now, truly His people. Rejoice if you are His people. Cry out for mercy if you are not. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Isaiah 50 - Israel's Sin and the Obedient Servant.

The ESV wins the title for this chapter; the HCSB has none. This chapter opens with YHWH asking Israel to produce evidence to support their complaints of being abandoned by God.

Isaiah 50:1-3 (HCSB) This is what the LORD says: Where is your mother’s divorce certificate that I used to send her away? Or who were My creditors that I sold you to? Look, you were sold for your iniquities, and your mother was put away because of your transgressions. Why was no one there when I came? Why was there no one to answer when I called? Is My hand too short to redeem? Or do I have no power to deliver? Look, I dry up the sea by My rebuke; I turn the rivers into a wilderness; their fish rot because of lack of water and die of thirst. I dress the heavens in black and make sackcloth their clothing.

YHWH asks Israel, where is your mother's divorce certificate? This appears to refer to Zion as Israel's mother. The Mosaic Law (Deut 24:1-3) mandated a certificate when a man divorced his wife. While God had put her away because of Israel's transgressions (this word refers to violations of the law given to them). He asks where are the creditors - which would be the case IF they had been sold to settle a debt. They were sold because of their iniquities, their depraved acts. There is no one to validate Israel's contention - these acts were from God's hands and only His hands can redeem and deliver Israel.

YHWH reminds Israel of His redemption from Egypt by referring to the dry seabed (Ex 14:21); He points them to the end of the age by providing a peek into the judgment that will come on the world (Rev 6:12). This sets the stage for the Servant to be announced. Sin has been dealt with - Israel has no hope unless God Himself does something.

Isaiah 50:4-5 (HCSB) The Lord GOD has given Me the tongue of those who are instructed to know how to sustain the weary with a word. He awakens Me each morning; He awakens My ear to listen like those being instructed. The Lord GOD has opened My ear, and I was not rebellious; I did not turn back.

The Servant speaks, declaring that He has been given wise speech that will give hope to the weary; ears to hear wisdom from the Father. God has done this for a humble, obedient Servant who does the way He is instructed (see John 8:29).

Isaiah 50:6-7 (HCSB) I gave My back to those who beat Me, and My cheeks to those who tore out My beard. I did not hide My face from scorn and spitting. The Lord GOD will help Me; therefore I have not been humiliated; therefore I have set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.

Read the gospel accounts of the punishment meted out by the Romans (Mark 14:65; 15:19; etc.) and see the fulfillment of this account. Imagine the face of a man whose beard has been ripped from his flesh. Not seemly, someone no one would want to look at. The Creator spurned and beaten and mocked by the creature. As Peter declared in Acts 2:22-24, all this was God's predetermined plan.

The Son relied upon the Father's help, who for the joy that lay before Him endured the cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne. Not humiliated, but glorified! This confidence in the Father was why the Servant could set His course for the cross and know He would not be put to shame. Flint is a hard rock, used to makes sparks to start a fire. There is a fire of judgment coming and all who are in Christ will not be put to shame. But woe be those who know Him not!

Isaiah 50:8-9 (HCSB) The One who vindicates Me is near; who will contend with Me? Let us confront each other. Who has a case against Me? Let him come near Me! In truth, the Lord GOD will help Me; who will condemn Me? Indeed, all of them will wear out like a garment; a moth will devour them.

The Servant alludes to Psalms 118:6, which Paul cited in Romans 8:31. If God is for us, who can stand against us? If God is our advocate, who can lay a charge against us? (see Romans 8:33) Our trust and confidence ought to be as that of the Servant - trusting in God for help, knowing nothing can condemn us (Romans 8:1). All who rail against the Servant and His body will wear out like a garment (like the Old Covenant - Heb 8:13) and moth-eaten (Job 12:38). These two signs indicated poverty - physical poverty for national Israel, spiritual poverty for those not in Christ.

Isaiah 50:10-11 (HCSB) Who among you fears the LORD, listening to the voice of His Servant? Who among you walks in darkness, and has no light? Let him trust in the name of Yahweh; let him lean on his God. Look, all you who kindle a fire, who encircle yourselves with firebrands; walk in the light of your fire and in the firebrands you have lit! This is what you’ll get from My hand: you will lie down in a place of torment.

Two types of people are addressed here: those who fear YHWH and listen to the Servant and those who walk in darkness and have no light. Note this: the right fear of God results in listening to what the Son has said and walking in obedience, in the light. Those who walk in the darkness know Him not. I think John picked up on this light/dark idea: 1 John 2:9-11 (HCSB) "The one who says he is in the light but hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother remains in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. But the one who hates his brother is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and doesn’t know where he’s going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes." Walking in darkness is being apart from the grace of God in Christ. Walking in the light is being obedient to Him - love does not cause a brother to stumble.

Let the one who walks in darkness learn to trust in and lean on YHWH. None other than Him is trustworthy! Poor sinner - look unto Christ! He is the only One and only Way to bring peace with God!

If you don't, you will be like those who are content with a small fire that they lit and control - thinking the warmth of the flame will protect against evil. As when Lot fled to the wrong side of the valley, away from uncle Abraham and the covenant people of God, sin went with him - so it is with those who think a few burning sticks will protect them. They will not be protected from the One they refuse to submit to. They will be made to lie down in a place of torment, submitted to the fires of hell they cannot control, which will endlessly consume them rather than protect them.

Oh sinner - consider this! Judgment is coming. You have been storing up God's wrath since your birth. Look to the Servant, the God-man Jesus, Who is the Christ!