Thursday, November 17, 2016

Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 142

Comfort My People:
The Prophecies Of Isaiah
Day 142

The Servant of the Lord is presented to us again in Chapter 49 and we find Him restoring the tribes of Israel and calling the Gentiles, both near and far, into His kingdom.

"Listen to Me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the Lord called Me; from My mother's womb He has spoken My name." (Isaiah 49:1) We have seen Cyrus of Persia being called before he was born, and we could almost believe this verse is in reference to him, except that as we continue on we find the scope of this Servant's purpose is so broad and all-encompassing that He cannot be anyone but the Messiah and King. Likewise, this cannot be about Isaiah, although he too could claim to have been called into the Lord's service before he was born, but Isaiah will have no part in the eventual restoration of Israel or the calling of the Gentiles into God's family. In verse 1 we see the Servant reaching out not only to His own nation, but to all nations. 

"He made My mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of His hand He hid Me; He made me into a polished arrow and concealed Me in His quiver." (Isaiah 49:2) The prophet Isaiah has used some sharp words with God's people, but he isn't speaking of himself here. He's speaking of the risen Lord we see in the book of Revelation, the King of kings, who fights with a double-edged sword. (Revelation 1:16, 2:12) The Lord has concealed this Servant until the exact time in history He should be brought forth. "But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship." (Galatians 4:4-5) 

"He said to Me, 'You are My servant, Israel, in whom I will display My splendor.' But I said, 'I have labored in vain; I have spent My strength for nothing at all. Yet what is due Me is in the Lord's hand, and My reward is with My God." (Isaiah 49:3) We find something twofold here. Israel is a chosen people to the Lord and this makes them His servant, though they forsook Him time and again. But the majority of commentaries I consulted believe that in verse 3 the Lord is using the name "Israel" to symbolize this chosen Servant. The Servant is all that the Lord wants Israel to be but that she could never be on her own. Through Him she will eventually achieve the splendor God intended for her. The Servant looks at the mission set out for Him and sees how He will be scorned. He knows Israel will reject her Messiah and King, so He says, "I have spent My strength for nothing at all." He's not belittling those who believed on Him during His earthly ministry or after His resurrection, but by and large the vast majority of believers over the millennia have been Gentiles. The effort Jesus expended on His own nation must look exceedingly unfruitful compared to how successful His efforts have been among the Gentiles. But even so, Jesus recognizes something about His calling that we all would benefit from learning: our only responsibility is to obey God; He is responsible for the outcome and He will reward our efforts even if no one else does. Jesus' own nation never bowed at His feet and declared Him their Lord and King, but His reward is from God, not from man. The Servant fulfilled His mission on earth and now He looks to God for vindication, not to humans. Sometimes we too feel like we have labored in vain, working hard in the Lord's service, fulfilling what He calls us to do, being obedient to His word. But nothing we have done sincerely in the Lord's name is wasted. We might not see our full reward in this life, but when we stand before Him we will receive whatever is due us for our work on behalf of His kingdom.

"And now the Lord says---He who formed Me in the womb to be His servant to bring Jacob back to Him and gather Israel to Himself, for I am honored in the eyes of the Lord and My God has been My strength---He says: "It is too small a thing for You to be My Servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make You a light for the Gentiles, that My salvation may reach to the ends of the earth." (Isaiah 49:5-6) This Servant is so great and so exalted in the eyes of God the Father that simply giving Jesus the adulation of His own people won't be enough. He will be King over all the earth, from shore to shore, from east to west and north to south. As the prophet Zechariah foresaw, "The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and His name the only name." (Zechariah 14:9) This is the full reward of His labors. God will give all the kingdoms of the earth into His hands. "Therefore I will give Him a portion among the great, and He will divide the spoils of the strong, because He poured out His life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12) The sacrifice that Christ made was so great and so holy and so perfect that it could cover the sins of every tribe and nation for all time. Why limit this blessing to Israel alone? God in His mercy offers it to the Gentiles as well.

"This is what the Lord says---the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel---to Him who was despised and abhorred by the nation, to the Servant of rulers: 'Kings will see You and stand up, princes will see and bow down, because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen You." (Isaiah 49:7) The mission of the Servant was difficult and thankless, for He was "despised and rejected by mankind". (Isaiah 53:3) He was "the stone the builders rejected". (Psalm 118:22) But someday the kings of the earth will stand to honor Him. Someday all will bow at His feet. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that He is God. God the Father is making this promise to the chosen Servant. He is faithful and will fulfill it. God, who called the Servant, will reward the Servant for obedience. 

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