The Suffering And Exaltation of Jesus

Isaiah-52

Isaiah presents God’s servant as one who goes from the most extreme suffering to the highest exaltation. He truly rises from the bottom to the top, from the last to the first. Jesus reaches these extremes when He goes to the cross to be sacrificed for the sins of the world and then upon His ascension when He went to the right hand of the Father.

In the wake of His exaltation the revelation of who He is and what He has done will spread throughout the world. That is exactly what happened as His disciples took the gospel to every kingdom and made disciples of the nations. Beginning with Pilate, we see how rulers are faced with the power of Jesus and amazed at His righteousness and wisdom. The same would happen with Paul in his trials during his ministry.

Gentiles, in particular, have much to be thankful for because they now have the knowledge of that which was only known to Israel. And it was because of Jesus life, death, resurrection, and ascension that we can know fully what prophets and kings in the past have sought to discover. It’s easy to forget what a privilege it is to know what we know and to have direct access to the throne of grace.

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God Will Have Mercy, Not Sacrifice

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Thus saith thy Lord the lord, and thy God that pleadeth the cause of His people, Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again.

Isaiah 51:22

Note: I wasn’t able to get some time in to study in the morning so here is the aforementioned thoughts I had promised last night on the Facebook page. If you haven’t been there please check it out: https://www.facebook.com/bibliablogger. You’ll see all of the posts here on the webpage but also extra good stuff that is not on the blog. There you will see links to interesting articles I find from around the web, among other things.

I think understanding this part of Isaiah was as much of a challenge for the people in Isaiah’s lifetime as it is in ours. For them this was the unthinkable, the worst case scenario. For us, it is an obscure historical reference that is so distant it does not seem relevant. Its meaning was significant to the Jews living in exile.

This message is as much for those who were in Babylon when they read this as it is for anyone. They needed the reminder that God knew this would happen and that He is in control even in the most desperate of times. They also needed the hope that His promise of deliverance would bring.

He threatened to punish the people for their disobedience and He did exactly that. Being the merciful God that He is, now the promise is to take the cup that His people drank from and give it to their oppressors. I believe that God does this, in part, because He does not get glory from destroying His people but from showing that He has the power to deliver them who trust in Him.

Jesus quotes Hosea 6 in Matthew 12 when He tells the Pharisees that God desires mercy and not sacrifice. As long as we draw breath God’s hand of redemption is stretched out. Religious people think they do not need God’s help but those who truly know Him know that He wants them to take His hand. We are restored when we remember God’s nature and put our lives into His hands, as did the prodigal son with his father.

It is only a matter of time before you find yourself away from God’s presence. The funny thing is that we do everything we can to deal with the guilt and shame before we finally give up and repent from it. We can save ourselves the heartache by remembering that the Lord wants us to immediately turn back to Him.

The Lord is already running to meet us with open arms. He is not waiting or expecting us to fix ourselves up before we go back to Him. Never forget that He is pleased with us for Christ’s sake and not because of our own merit. We do not have to earn His favor because we already have it.

Are You Listening To God?

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The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

Isaiah 50:4,5

This chapter in Isaiah gives us a multi-faceted look at Jesus and I want to highlight this aspect of Him as the child prodigy. He is the perfect disciple because He completely trusts and obeys the Lord God. That faith enables Him to hear and learn from the Father everything that He must do to serve Him.

Most Christians would probably say that they want to know the will of God but the same number probably cannot say that they are listening to Him. Yeah, God has a plan for us but we’re really concerned about accomplishing all of our goals. We already have a list of priorities that dictates our decisions.

For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

John 12:49,50

Jesus did not pursue His own agenda in life. He did not make decisions based on what made sense. He did not pursue a career. He did not waste His time learning who He was. The Father already had a purpose and plan for Him and Jesus pursued it. Moreover, Jesus understood that obeying God’s will was much better than doing His own thing.

Do you trust that God’s will for your life is worth all of the sacrifices you will have to make? Or would you rather be “successful?” You do not have to find a purpose in life because you already have one. The only question is: when will you stop rebelling and start fulfilling it?

And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

John 8:29

That is not hyperbole. Jesus always did that which pleased the Father. Not most of the time—all the time. That is what we must work towards in our life. We won’t know what real living is until we start to live for God’s pleasure.

Justified: In Real Life

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He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.

Isaiah 50:8

In this chapter we see a contrast between sinful Israel and the obedient Servant of the Lord. One of the differences is that the Servant, who is Jesus, knows His standing with God. He completely trusts in the Lord.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1

This confidence in God’s grace and justification extends to followers of Christ. We now have the same privilege of being acceptable in God’s eyes because of Christ’s righteousness. This is absolutely crucial to remember if we are going to resist the accuser of the brethren.

We must also keep in mind that God desires to justify us and bring us near to Him. He is not looking for a way to trip us up and cause us to fail. He is not stern and mean like some grumpy old man. He is fierce to the wicked but He is tender to any who call on His name. He keeps no one at arm’s length but He does welcome us with open arms.

Israel’s Sin And Jesus’ Obedience

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Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Wherefore, when I came, was there no man? when I called, was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? or have I no power to deliver? behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst.

I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.

Isaiah 50:1-3

The opening part of this chapter describes the sinful nature of Israel. She has gone astray and has the audacity to think that it was God who abandoned her. But we shouldn’t be disappointed or surprised because this should sound familiar.

We often do the same thing with God when our life is a mess. When everything is going well we forget about God and when it falls apart we get impatient with Him and expect Him to fix it. Why is God good sometimes but so harsh at other times?

But God is always faithful and He never changes. We’re the ones on the roller coaster and that’s why it looks like He’s moving.

I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.

The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned.

The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.

I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.

For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together: who is mine adversary? let him come near to me.

Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.

Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.

Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.

Isaiah 50:4-11

With this passage we see the contrast between sinful Israel and the obedient Servant, who is Jesus. He is truly the Servant of the Lord because He listens to the Father and does whatever He commands.

This contrast shows us that only Jesus can be the perfect example of what it means to live by faith. It shows that the law cannot save or bring life, as Paul writes in Romans 8. Only a perfect man can meet a perfect standard.

Moreover, by God’s grace we can, through Jesus, be the servants that God seeks. Jesus repeatedly called us to drop everything and follow Him. Jesus is the way that shows us how it is done. Will you be the sinful traitor or the obedient servant?

God Is Not Finished With You

Hanging

Thus saith the Lord, Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.

Isaiah 50:1

God’s faithfulness is a source of comfort and hope and a reason why we praise Him. It is also a very difficult and painful lesson to learn. The reason it is so painful is because you realize how much God will allow you to endure and it will be more than you ever considered.

He will take you through the worst case scenario and let you spend more time in it than you want. You will go past what you think is your breaking point and then some. All the while, though, God is making His arrangements for you. Soon enough you see His hand at work through a major breakthrough.

This part of the prophecy in Isaiah is for Israel in exile but was written when they were still in the land and dwelled carelessly. They did not trust God and they had yet to go through the painful lesson to learn that God is faithful. For the Jews in Babylon who were desperate for a reason to be hopeful this was a prophecy that was too good to be true. It sounded nice but it was just unbelievable.

Nevertheless the prophet was hopeful and his faith was based on the passage in Psalm 22:27-29. God comforts those who are being scorned as they continue to serve Him faithfully, as did the remnant under Babylonian rule. He reminds them, and us, that He will have the last laugh and we will be rewarded for enduring to the end.

You will know you’re trusting God because it feels like your life is unraveling. Nothing is happening the way you had planned or hoped. You may even be greatly suffering. God has not forgotten you and, in fact, He is preparing something glorious for you. As with Daniel in chapter 10 of his book, there may be a delay in answering the prayer that was immediately heard but it’s only a delay. The more bitter the pain the more sweet the victory.

What Was Jesus’ Calling?

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Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name.

And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me;

And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the Lord, and my work with my God.

And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength.

And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

Isaiah 49:1-6

God ultimately called Jesus to glorify Him. He was supposed to restore Israel but that nation despised and rejected Him. The Lord then used Jesus to go out to the Gentiles and bring them into the fold. They who were considered dogs are now blessed to receive the salvation that Israel abandoned.

Paul alludes to this verse in reference to Barnabas and himself in Acts 13:47. He saw himself as sharing in the work of the Jesus as he brought the light of the gospel to the gentiles. I believe that we too can also share in that same work. Jesus did say that we are the salt and light of the world.

Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you.

John 20:21

 

 

 

Are You Trusting God?

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Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the Lord, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.

Isaiah 48:1

God is condemning Israel’s nominal religiosity. God has a problem with it because it is a pretense of faith. The people paid lip service to God when they mentioned His name. There was nothing truthful or righteous about the way they spoke of the Lord.

John also condemns nominal Christians in the church as being anti-Christs. Nominal Christians are also believers in name only. They may be in the church but they do not walk in the light, believe in the gospel, or love the brethren. They are the lukewarm water that Jesus said He would spew out of His mouth.

It is precisely because of Israel’s lack of faith that God announced His intentions with the Babylonian exile but brought it to pass so quickly that all would see that He did it, not their idols.

I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass. Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.

Isaiah 48:3-5

When we turn away from God to idols we attribute our fortunes to their power. These days people tend to trust their own hard work and cleverness to get them what they want or think they need. For others their idol can be blind luck. But believers must reject this kind of thinking because the Bible teaches us that God is involved in our lives. He calls us to entrust everything to Him and He promises to show us the pathway to take. Therefore we are supposed to look to Him with anticipation about what He is going to do and then acknowledge Him with praise after He has done it. This is how God gets the glory.

Don’t linger in the place where your lips are close but your heart is far away from the Lord.

What Is A Disciple Of Christ?

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If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Luke 14:26, 27

Jesus demands total commitment when He calls us to be His disciples. That means everything we do must please Him. It also means that everything we do has to be in obedience to His teachings. Our highest loyalty has to be to Him.

I need to point out that when Jesus says we must hate our families He is not talking about extreme animosity. The Greek word translated hate actually means to love less. We are to love our families, friends, and our very lives less than we love Jesus.

I never appreciated the significance of this commandment before I had begun to put my trust in The Lord in a practical way. I realized that my family was as much of an obstacle to serving The Lord as any temptation. It was eye-opening to realize that those who are believers in Christ, though they be well-intentioned, will lead you astray.

We see an example of this from Jesus’ own life in the gospel according to John:

Now the Jews’ feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren therefore said unto him, Depart hence, and go into Judæa, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth any thing in secret, and he himself seeketh to be known openly. If thou do these things, shew thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him. Then Jesus said unto them, My time is not yet come: but your time is alway ready. The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it, that the works thereof are evil. Go ye up unto this feast: I go not up yet unto this feast; for my time is not yet full come.

John 7:2-8

Another example comes from Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana, where He turned water into wine:

And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come.

John 2:3,4

Our loved ones often offer solutions derived from their own clever minds rather than encouraging us to be faithful. They assume, like the world, that there is a formula for solving problems or achieving goals and we need to simply follow it. Sometimes we have to give God a little help.

Jesus, however, calls us to wait on the Lord. We are supposed to follow His example of going places, doing works, and saying things only when God commands us. Jesus knew that the Father would provide everything He needed at the right time and entrusted everything to His care. He concerned Himself with being obedient to how God commands us to live through His word.

You probably have family and friends who are telling you what you need to do to get a job, to marry the right person, or to be happy. Unless it is their responsibility to provide you with it you need to take what worries you to God in prayer. If you need something then you should be harassing God about it every day.

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Under the Mosaic covenant the Jews had to bring animals sacrifices to offer God but as disciples of Christ we are the sacrifice, a living sacrifice offered up daily. I think that when Jesus said He testifies that the works of the world are evil He was doing so by the way He lived, completely surrendered to the will of God at every moment. The way of the world is to do what you think is right when you want to do it but Christ’s is to do what the Father wants when He wants us to do it. That’s what it takes to be His disciple.

The Power Of Prayer

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Then came the word of the Lord to Isaiah, saying, Go, and say to Hezekiah, Thus saith the Lord, the God of David thy father, I have heard thy prayer, I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years. And I will deliver thee and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria: and I will defend this city.

Isaiah 38:4-8

Suddenly, a hand touched me, which made me tremble on my knees and on the palms of my hands. And he said to me, “O Daniel, man greatly beloved, understand the words that I speak to you, and stand upright, for I have now been sent to you.” While he was speaking this word to me, I stood trembling. Then he said to me, “Do not fear, Daniel, for from the first day that you set your heart to understand, and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard; and I have come because of your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; and behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I had been left alone there with the kings of Persia. 14 Now I have come to make you understand what will happen to your people in the latter days, for the vision refers to many days yet to come.”

Daniel 10:10-14

And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; And I am come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land unto a good land and a large, unto a land flowing with milk and honey; unto the place of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

Exodus 3:7,8

I randomly picked these three passages from scripture to show that prayer is effective. It took me a long time to realize that while these stories seem special because they are in the Bible and I’ve read them all my life they were not momentous at the time. If we could travel back in time I think we would see that nothing special appeared to be happening. The lesson is that while it may seem that we live in relatively less miraculous times compared to the Bible we have every reason to expect God to do such things in our day. These stories are relevant because they are examples of what is happening even now. And so we should be encouraged to faithfully worship and pray to the Lord for all things.

God changed the course of nations at the prayers of His faithful people. We also have the teachings of Jesus that instruct us to pray according to His will and expect God to answer. The Lord can change the course of our nation, for good, as He had done for many other nations and kingdoms in the past. We can be sure that praying for the gospel to be preached in this country with fruitful results is in accord with God’s will. God delivered nations on the prayers of only one righteous man, which Paul tells us availeth much. How much more so if millions of faithful followers are doing the same. Have no doubts that your prayers matter a great deal.