Saturday, October 29, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 123

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 123

We concluded yesterday with the Lord's promise to send His chosen Servant, the Messiah, who will be a light for the Gentiles and the glory of God's people Israel. After receiving news like that, a song of praise breaks out. "Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that is in it, you islands, and all who live in them. Let the wilderness and its towns raise their voices; let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy; let them shout from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim His praise in the islands." (Isaiah 42:10-12) 

We have a new song to sing because God has made a new covenant with mankind. In Christ we are saved by faith, not by works. In Christ we are living under grace, not under law. When the psalmist understood, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that God would work out a plan of salvation for mankind, he cried joyfully, "Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things; His right hand and His holy arm have worked salvation for Him. The Lord has made His salvation known and revealed His righteousness to the nations. He has remembered His love and faithfulness to Israel; all the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God." (Psalm 98:1-3) Salvation is His work and only He could accomplish it for us. Knowing this mighty God, Isaiah confidently predicts victory, "The Lord will march out like a champion, like a warrior He will stir up His zeal; with a shout He will raise the battle cry and will triumph over His enemies." (Isaiah 42:13)

The Lord speaks, "For a long time I have kept silent, I have been quiet and have held Myself back." (Isaiah 42:14a) God had not yet gone silent in the days of Isaiah, but there would be a period of four hundred years of silence between the Old and New Testaments. No prophets were called to preach. No visions were given. The people had ignored the Lord when He pleaded with them through the prophets and with signs and wonders, but He caught their attention when He stopped speaking. The prophet Amos predicted this ominous silence, "'The days are coming,' declares the Sovereign Lord, 'when I will send a famine through the land---not a famine of food or thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord." (Amos 8:11) 

Then suddenly, after four hundred years of deathly quiet, a voice cries in the wilderness. The miraculous birth of John the Baptist occurs and the Lord calls him to be the final Old Testament prophet, bridging the gap between the old and the new, testifying to the divinity of Jesus by proclaiming to the people, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29b) The famine of God's silence had been so severe that the people thirsted and hungered for His voice. They were ready to hear the words of John who prepared their hearts for the teaching of Jesus. After being declared the Son of God by both John the Baptist and God the Father's voice from heaven, Jesus began His ministry. "When the Sabbath came, He began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard Him were amazed. 'Where did this man get these things?' they asked. 'What's this wisdom that has been given Him? What are these remarkable miracles He is performing?'"( Mark 6:2) "When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at His teaching, because He taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law." (Matthew 7:28-29) "The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, 'What is this? A new teaching---and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey Him.'" (Mark 1:27) Upon witnessing one of Jesus' miracles, "This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, 'We have never seen anything like this!'" (Mark 2:12) 

During the years of silence, the people mourned like those who have been cast off and rejected, but this was not the case. The silence was for the purpose of preparing them to receive the Servant of God when He came; it was not intended as proof of rejection. You may have heard the expression, "When God is silent, He is working". In our frail humanity we are tempted to take silence as proof of desertion, because this is often what it means when another human being stops communicating with us, but we can't judge God's behavior by man's behavior. Israel thought they had messed up one too many times and He was done with them. They cried out, "O God, why have You rejected us forever? Why does Your anger smolder against the sheep of Your pasture?...We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be." (Psalm 74:1,9) God had not rejected His people. He had not washed His hands of them and walked away. His greatest work on behalf of His people Israel and all the world was yet to come.

After four centuries of stillness, the Lord says, "But now, like a woman in childbirth, I cry out, I gasp and pant." (Isaiah 42:14b) Bible scholar Barry G. Webb describes this passage beautifully, "Like a woman in childbirth He gasps and pants. Redemption is accomplished with tremendous effort and at great cost, and it is the glory of the Lord that He spares Himself neither." (From The Message Of Isaiah, pg 173) Redemption is the Lord's work. He put in the effort and He paid the price. It cost Him a great deal to save us. The Lord Jesus, our Kinsman Redeemer, thought no price was too high to pay to buy our lives back from sin and our souls back from death. The Lamb of God, perfect and spotless and without blemish, thought us worth the sacrifice, though at the time we were weak and sinful and unprofitable servants. He loved us when we were unlovable. I don't know what He saw in us that caused Him to love us so! I don't know what moved Him to such compassion for our sinfulness, such pity on our brokenness. But He was willing to go to any lengths to save us. "You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:6-8)

God's work of salvation accomplishes what we could never accomplish for ourselves. We will never be able to boast we got to heaven by our own power or through our own works. All the glory belongs to Him. The new song of praise will be for the One who said. "I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation; I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools. I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them. But those who trust in idols, who say to images, 'You are our gods,' will be turned back in utter shame." (Isaiah 42:15-17) Again the Lord turns back to the useless idols He has called into His courtroom. Have any of them ever restored sight to the blind or hearing to the deaf? Have any of them ever turned anyone's darkness to light? Idols cannot save mankind and anyone who has trusted in an idol will be ashamed when faced with the Mighty God. Our help is found only in the One who says, "For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13) 

I can't tell you what caused Jesus to find us worth saving. I'm amazed He thought us worth the price He paid, but because of His redemptive work on our behalf, we can spend all eternity singing a new song to Him.

Below is our worship song link for today.

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