Trust and Obey, that’s the Servant’s Way.

I am struggling today to understand how, on the one hand, I can trust God for the really big things, the important things in my life – yet can become so upset when I am faced with everyday irritating challenges, not seeming to be able to trust in God caring for those as well..

“I have given you a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone – through My Spirit. For you to receive the full benefit of the work I am doing in your heart, you need to stand back and relinquish your desire to control, to get revenge, to demonstrate your authority. You need to become completely humble – emptying yourself of all the desires you have to run your own life your way. Instead, as you relinquish that and humble yourself under My mighty hand, so that I can start guiding you and giving you love instead of revenge, obedience to Me instead of having things your way – then you will find true peace, as you find My way is always the right way. My outcome is always the one which will benefit you and My kingdom the most. All flesh is frail, take heart and take the first step again today by becoming completely humble.”

Last time we saw The Lord’s almost sense of frustration at the people He had chosen to be His witnesses, the heralds of His reality and love to the world. He ended the piece with a challenge to the people, suggesting that they did not really believe He had the power to carry out His plan. He reminded them of His great works of the past. In today’s section, as we look at 50:4 – 51:9, he once again puts forward His Solution to their problem of disobedience revealed in (50:1). He will raise up a Servant that will have the ability and desire to be obedient under the most trying circumstances. He declares that has not been rebellious (50:5b) despite being rejected and scorned.

Who is this Servant? The text certainly is used a number of times to describe Jesus in the New Testament. What is clear is that this person is coming in the power and through the action of the Lord God or the One, cf vv 4,5,7,8,9. When the text comes to vv 10 and 11 we are faced again with the responsibility that we have to make the right choice. Verse 10 shows us clearly, we must fear the Lord first, listen to the voice of His Servant, trust in the name of Yahweh and lean on Him. The alternative, in v 11, are those who choose their own illumination, which will take them to the place of torment.

There are a number of other pointers to follow. Jesus is the One who instructs us and can sustain us, if we listen to His word. He wants to and will wake you each morning to meet with Him. Just as he has been obedient, we need, through His power, to be obedient too. Then, as much as He was rejected we can expect that to also happen to us, in a world which is at war with Him. Yet he will vindicate us and He has taken care of the condemnation we face. there is much to absorb and meditate on.

These “servant songs” are a bit like an impressionistic painting, where there are splashes of colour which suggest the picture, without painting it in detail. Just so we see brief glimpses which reveal different aspects of our Saviour Jesus, as the prophet saw them, especially in these “Servant Sogs”, which we can complete in our imagination. As you sit back and meditate on them you can see the gorgeous masterpiece slowly being revealed, which is finally going to be revealed on the cross.

Chapter 51 begins with 9 vv which give the reader three incentives to make the right choice between 50:10 and 11 and spur us on to be obedient. See if you can identify them.

Never Abandoned.

“Oh the goodness of Jesus. Your love has come like a mighty flood and it was that love that bound you to the cross, that took you to the grave, before you rose and it is that love that comes again to wash me clean.

“Come to Me, bring me your ‘righteousness’. You need to be cleansed from your own righteousness – you see your own righteousness is like filthy rags to Me. Any sense of your coming close to Me and spending time with Me depends on your own worth, your own ability to hear Me speak to you, your growth, your understanding of My word and obeying Me. If you are depending, in any measure on those things – they are as filthy rags to Me. The only merit you have is from Me – I cleansed you and started a new work in you. Any merit you have is entirely from My grace and because you are now ‘in Jesus’. It is only when you realize this fully in your deepest heart, will you know what it truly means to say ‘not my will but thou will o Lord”.

Thank you Lilly on your observation of being engraved on the Lord’s hands. It is really integral to the second part of ch 49 and how it flows into ch 50. The opening of a new thought is in 49:14. Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me”, the Lord has forgotten me”. Obviously this refers to the exile and the feeling that the remnant would have had. In the face of the many promises of God’s care for them up to then, they find themselves in exile. Has God truly forgotten them? Has He abandoned them? So up to 50:3 He addresses this. He uses these various pictures of “being engraved on His hands” and a mother not forgetting her child from her womb, whom she is nursing, to show the sureness of His continuing love and concern for them.

Then He launches into a picture of the future blessings that await them and His revenge on those who have oppressed them. But notice His ultimate purpose in this relationship, in vs 26b. “Then all flesh will know that I, Yahweh am your Saviour and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob”.

In ch 50 then He again addresses their sense of separation from Him. Now He is saying they are not divorced from Him but are feeling separated from Him. He speaks of their being sold, not because of Yahweh, but because of their own iniquities. When He wanted a relationship with them they were nowhere to be found. Then he finally denies the thought that He did not have the power or ability to save them. That is why He reminds them of His mighty historic deeds in 50:2b, 3.

Back to square 1 then is it? No He is laying the basis for introducing the whole revelation of His “Solution” to this problem. A Servant is going to come. He will make all he difference to this apparent impasse. So this is the background against which the rest of ch 50 is to be seen, which we will look at next time.

Well what does that mean for us then? For me personally? Just as much as God would never abandon Israel, His chosen people, so He will never abandon us, who are also His chosen people, His loved ones. So Lilly has it completely right, we are engraved on His hands.. He will never forget us, we are completely secure. This is so important because there are times in all our lives when we may feel that He has turned away from us. The good news is that we now have the “Servant” which we will read about as we go on who is making all the difference, under the New Covenant. The One whom this is ultimately all about and the One who makes this all real to us.

A Servant to Save the Whole World

“Broken”, the word comes to me over and over. Now I see a picture – a picture of a figure being mocked, His beard forcibly being plucked out, a crown made up of long thorns being rammed down with force upon his head, blood springs out and trickles down. I hear the thud as nails go through his hands and feet – his body jerking in agony every time the nails are struck. The cross lifted up and dropped in place with a thud – more agony. All the time voices clamouring, “crucify, crucify – He saved others let Him save Himself”. Darkness – sudden, inky, black darkness – forsaken – broken, completely broken, in body but also His contact with the love of His Father broken. Blood flowing down into the dust of Jerusalem.

“Broken for you Ian. My body was broken for you so that yours may be made whole again, your real self ‘you’ who you are – made whole. My relationship with the Father broken – so that yours may be healed. I have given all for you, now I expect your all for Me – there can be no half-measures, it is either ‘all or nothing’, if you wish to follow Me.”

I understand now, Jesus wants my complete self, not just that, which I can give without it disturbing my comfort.

Continuing in Isaiah 48 and into 49. One can sense this wonderful all-encompassing plan that God has had from the beginning, continually featuring in the background, as a framework for this prophecy . The plan that He voiced to Abraham written in Gen 12:1-3, which ends with the words, “All the peoples of the earth will be blessed through you”. His plan flowing from the physical descendants of Abraham, who would become the nation of Israel, was to bring a blessing to the whole world. In the process they would also be blessed.

One can almost sense God’s frustration in Isaiah 48:18, “If only you had paid attention to my commands, you would have been blessed with peace” and in vs 18, “your descendants would have been like the sand of he sea.” But they had not heard or obeyed so they would have no peace, “because there is no peace for the wicked”.

Yet in His grace, He had not given up on them. What is His plan for them and the world? This is revealed in Ch 49. It centers around a figure called, God’s servant in 9:3. It was always God’s plan vs 1,to raise this figure for His purpose. Notice in vs 2, he will be “like a polished arrow”. Now what are the features and purpose of an arrow? It flies straight at it’s target, to accomplish the archer’s purpose, especially one that has been polished. However he is hidden for the time being. (The mystery, which is revealed much later revealed in Ephesians 3:4-6)

So what is this purpose of God? It is worded so beautifully in vs 6: The servant will accomplish this hugely important task (no small thing). He will not only restore Israel, but become a light for the Gentiles, that He may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”. The language is confusing because there are times when the servant appears to be a single figure, then again he appears to be speaking of Israel as a whole. We should not be put off by this. It is prophetic language so you must see past it to hear the melodic thread, as it weaves its way through the text.

What is important, is to see the emphatic statement in vs 8. There will be a day of salvation. A day which will be the turning point in history but also a day which each one of us needs to experience on a personal level, which will be the turning point in our lives. At that moment, His covenant will be introduced. vs 8. His new covenant, a covenant by which He will set the captives free, and call those in darkness into light. vs 9.

The rest of the chapter continues to reveal the benefits of God’s saving covenant, much of which is in symbolic language. Yet there is plenty of food for thought for each of us to meditate on, in the detail of those vv. What is very important though, is the last vs 26 b: “Then all mankind will know that I, the Lord am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.” Can there be any doubt about who he is talking about and His ultimate purpose?

I have painted the picture with a vast sweep of a large brush to help us to keep our bearings. However down to a personal level now, what is Jesus saying to you? What is He saying to me? I am reminded that I, like each one of us, have a special part to play in His plan. To play that part it is more important to grow in who we are by keeping close to Jesus than what we must do, He will lead us continually into the place where He wants us to be most effective as His witnesses by fulfilling our role in that plan.

Man has Gone Astray and Needs Salvation.

“Weary” the word comes to me several times.

“There are times when the traveler becomes weary, but be careful that you do not allow your mind to slip into a sort of self-pity, where you keep reminding yourself about how weary you are. I have promised that when you are weary and heavy laden – you can come to Me and I will bear that burden with you and lift it. But when you find yourself saying how weary you are – remind yourself that I have already told you that I will lift your burdens and grasp that reality – that Presence and believe and trust in it. I have also said, ‘If you hope in the Lord you will rise up with wings as an eagle’. Turn your mind, therefore away from your weariness and look to Me and receive My joy. Live in My joy and My hope and the weariness will slip away. But remember also, that I am always here so that when you are genuinely weary from pain, whether physical or emotional, from disappointments, separation etc – I am here and I hear you and you can bring that to Me as many times as you wish.”

As we continue reading Isaiah into chps, 47 and 48, we see once again, the strong element of judgement, which has lain heavily throughout Isaiah. In ch 47 God returns to His judgement on Babylon, with powerful words of warning that it is exactly the things they feel secure against cf vs 7 ff, that are going to be the areas where disaster will strike them. As I look at these descriptions I see so many of those attitudes around me today, in the secular world. Especially here where we live in Helderberg Village. However the main thrust of God’s anger seems to lie in the accusation in vs 6 that God had handed His people over to the Babylonians, to be chastised. They had however, been more ruthless and cruel than ever was necessary.

Ultimately he ends the chapter with the statement which echoes with Romans 3. “Each wanders his own way” and then the rider, “no one can save you”. To understand this alarming statement it is necessary to see that the first step to salvation is a realization that you are following your own way. In other words one has to understand how lost you are, to want to be saved. Even the “good” people are following their own way. God’s judgement, however, has always had the purpose of bringing people back to Him.

In ch 48 The word of judgement turns towards Israel, God’s own people. Here we need to sit up and take notice. The nation of Israel in the Old Testament represents the “visible” church of the New Testament. Note, NOT the real church, which is limited to believers. Look at some of God’s statements. Vs 1, they are not focused on the truth and righteousness. Vs 4Their necks are like iron, demonstrating their stubbornness. V 8 They have not been listening.

So He turns that around and has something important to say to His people. First note, however how He keeps repeating the word or concept of listening from vs 12, “Listen to Me oh Jacob”; vs 14 “Come together and listen”, vss15,16; “I, the Lord have spoken…. Come near to Me and listen to this”; vs 17 b “I am the Lord who teaches you……who directs you in the way to go”. vs 18, “If only you had paid attention…..” The underlying cause of their troubles is directly related to their stiff necks and foreheads like bronze. vs 4. They have heard these things… yet not paid attention.

The nation of Israel is in deep trouble. The underlying reason for that is their stubbornness which is reflected in their inability or unwillingness to listen. They hear the Lord speaking, yet don’t act on it. It is as if He has not spoken at all. How much of the huge troubles that pervade the visible church today are due to them bashing along, doing their own thing. Involved in peripheral issues and neglecting the precious gospel message.

To-day however, we must look inward. I must look at myself and say “How well am I listening to Jesus?” In 48:11 God says “for My own sake, I do these things….I will not yield my glory to another”. All God’s actions are ultimately there to give Himself glory and to take us to a place where we can live to His glory. What do you hear Him saying to you today? Is your life and your attitude towards life glorifying God? Are you complaining, deep inside your heart about issues? I have to ask myself that continually, when events are not working out exactly as I would like them to.

The God with the Unique Ability to Save.

As I relax in the Lord’s presence, I find myself aware of my breathing – “Your breath is a sign of life – the life I have given you, but it is also a sign of the real life I have given you at your second birth – the breath of the Spirit, who is now present in you as a gift from Me – won on the cross at Calvary. Breathe easily and remember the huge benefits my Spirit brings to you – the difference that makes it possible for you rise up as on the wings of an eagle – with My Spirit in you anything is possible – the mundane falls away in response to My Presence. So breathe my Spirit, allow Him to take over your life and grow you to be like Me – then you will be a true and effective witness to Me and My love, but remember if you move away from My Spirit and Me, I won’t force you to come back – I will woo you – but in the meantime, if salt loses its saltiness – what use will it be – without My Spirit your life will be like salt without its saltiness.”

Isaiah 45:20 – 46:13. Throughout the bible there is one main theme – salvation. It is easy to allow the constant references to salvation to fade into the background. Here in this passage we are again reminded of this important and central aim of Yahweh. The passage is bracketed by two statements about His ability to save 45:21b and 46:13. This follows His statement in 45:20, where He contrasts this with those those who carry gods that cannot save, in a mocking way.

Now this action of God is not an intellectual description of a characteristic of His. It is grounded in the very fact of our real need to be saved. Therefore God demands a response from the hearers, not just a nod of approval. cf 45:22 “Turn to Me and be saved” and he addresses this to the whole world. We are then reminded that there will come a time when the whole earth will be faced with His reality and will be forced to respond in humility to Him. cf 45:23b-25. Remember Paul’s reminder of this to us in the passage in Phillipians ch 2.

His reference to “All the descendants of Israel being saved in 45:25” should be seen in the light of Romans 9:6 ff where Paul states “all Israel is not Israel” meaning that it is only those who have faith in God that are the true Israel. In he same way we become part of Israel when we become children of God by faith.

One or two more interesting facts from Ch 46: Nebo and Bel are two of the gods of Babylon. Throughout the whole bible, Babylon represents all that is evil in the world. Many of the kings of Babylon incorporated the names of their gods in their own names hence “Nebo(u)-chadnezzar”, indicating their absolute alignment with these imaginary deities.

What is significant in ch 46 is the description of the burden that the gods of the Babylonians were to them. They had to carry their gods 46:1,2, whereas Yahweh makes a strong statement contrasting His relationship with His people to this. He is real and does not abandon those who He has made, but carries them, Himself even into their old age 46:4.

So He is calling me today, to remember that He is the God who declares the end from the beginning and is therefore more than capable of accomplishing His central objective. That is to save and as I said last time, not like Nike, where we must do it, but through Himself. He will do it 46:11. What He has spoken, He will accomplish. What a comfort for each of us as we move into old age and this is not the end, it is just the beginning.