"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." 2 Cor 1:3-4
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah, Day 145
Comfort My People: The Prophecies Of Isaiah Day 145
As we begin our final sixteen chapters of the book of Isaiah, we see more and more of God's chosen Servant. Today's passage contrasts the unfaithfulness of Israel with the faithfulness of the Servant. We could insert our own names here in place of Israel, for we have all sinned and fallen short; we have all been rebellious and stubborn.
"This is what the Lord says: 'Where is your mother's certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of My creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away." (Isaiah 50:1) Yesterday the people of Zion said in doubtful response to God's promises, "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." (Isaiah 49:14) So today the Lord says, "Prove it! If I have truly put you away, where is your certificate of divorce?" In Deuteronomy 24:1-4 we find the regulations concerning divorce under the Mosaic law. If a man decided, pretty much for any reason, that he did not want to be married to a particular woman anymore, he could write her a certificate of divorce and send her away. He was then free to remarry, as was she. If the two of them reconciled before the woman remarried, the husband had the right to take her back. But if instead she remarried and divorced again, the husband could not take her back, because he was to consider her defiled. So the Lord is saying, "Prove to Me that I gave you a certificate of divorce and sent you away. Though you have been unfaithful to Me, I have not divorced you, and you are not free to belong to another. Therefore, I have the right of a husband to take you back and be reconciled to you."
The Lord, because He owns everything, can never be in debt to anyone. So the accusation that He sold them into slavery does not stand up. This is why He says, "To which of My creditors did I sell you?" The people sold themselves into slavery by racking up an insurmountable debt of sin. Their captivity was not a result of God being unable to rescue them; it was the result of reaping what they had sown. Certainly God could have defeated their enemies but what would His people have learned from that? That He rewards sin? That mankind can live in any way that he pleases and God will overlook it? That God is to be called upon in seasons of trouble but ignored the rest of the time?
"When I came why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was My arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering." (Isaiah 50:2-3) The Lord called to His own and no one answered. Some commentaries liken Him to a man returning to the household after a hard day's work, calling out to his family, "I'm home!", only to find that his wife and children have deserted him. While he labored on their behalf they were unfaithful and went astray. Like a betrayed husband, the Lord allowed His people to go their own way. He could have turned Assyria back from Israel and Babylon back from Judah but He did not, because His people needed to learn from their mistakes. This is why He doesn't always rescue us from our foolishness. There have been times I've had the Lord literally block my path when it was the wrong path, but there have been other times when I was so stubborn and persistent He stepped aside and let me have what I insisted I needed. I'm sad to say I've learned the majority of my lessons the hard way but we don't forget those lessons, do we? The Lord knows each of us so well that He recognizes situations in which we will only learn the lesson if we are allowed to experience the consequences of our rebellion.
The remainder of Chapter 50 is spoken in the voice of the Messiah, God's chosen Servant, the Redeemer of Israel and the Redeemer of mankind. "The Sovereign Lord has given Me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens My ear to listen like one being instructed." (Isaiah 50:4-5) In the gospels we see how closely Jesus remained connected with the Father, often going out alone to pray, daily communing with the Father and receiving instruction. We see here the obedience of the Servant and how vital His constant connection to the Father was to Him.
"I offered My back to those who beat Me, My cheeks to those who pulled out My beard; I did not hide My face from mocking and spitting." (Isaiah 50:6) We find this prophecy fulfilled in the New Testament, "Willing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified. The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, into the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on Him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on Him. And they began to call out to Him, 'Hail, king of the Jews!' Again and again they struck Him on the head with a staff and spit on Him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to Him. And when they had mocked Him, they took off the purple robe and put His own clothes on Him. Then they led Him out to crucify Him." (Mark 15:15-20) It was a disgraceful thing for a Jewish man to have his beard shaved, which is why captors usually did it. In Jesus' case His captors must have chosen a particularly cruel way of removing His beard: pulling it out, or at least part of it. The Bible doesn't describe this to us but later we will find Isaiah saying, "His appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and His form marred beyond human likeness". (Isaiah 52:14b)
Gruesome as movies involving the crucifixion are, I believe they all stop short of portraying the level of brutality Jesus endured. Remember how viewers wept and some even fainted in theaters when The Passion Of The Christ came out? If we were shown the fullness of Christ's sufferings, as Isaiah saw them in his vision, we could not bear it. It would be more than we could stand. Isaiah tells us our Lord was abused to the point of barely being recognized as human and it makes me want to weep because those bloody beatings belonged to us! We are Barabbas! The man who went free in Jesus' place was in prison for murder and insurrection. He was deserving of his imprisonment and impending death sentence. He was set free only because another Man took his place. And this is who we are: murderers, rebels, liars and cheats. We covet what is not ours. We are unfaithful adulterers, dishonest servants, unreliable friends, covenant breakers. I have broken every one of the Ten Commandments, some literally and some figuratively, but the law said that anyone who broke one law was guilty of the whole law, so whether we have broken one or all, we deserved our death sentence. And the only reason we have gone free is because a Man took our place. He did not turn back from taking on the punishment we deserved. If we were shown what He really endured, we'd cover our eyes, we'd be sick, we'd faint. Yet the Lord Jesus looked upon all these sufferings and decided, for reasons I myself cannot fathom, that we were worth it to Him.
The law said "cursed of God is one who hangs on a tree". (Deuteronomy 21:23) It was the ultimate disgrace. The enemies of Jesus looked at Him hanging there and felt vindicated in their accusations against Him. Would a godly person find himself in this position? Would not God rescue one who was faithful to Him? So they scoffed at Jesus and reviled Him, hurling insults at the holy Lamb of God, and as Isaiah foresaw, "We considered Him punished by God, stricken by Him, and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4b) The people said to themselves, "If this Man were not a sinner, God would have helped Him. God would not have allowed a good Man to be disgraced like this. We were correct in believing the power behind this Man was the power of darkness, not light." But in the face of all this, here is what the Servant says, "Because the Sovereign Lord helps Me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set My face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame." (Isaiah 50:7)
The Servant's eyes were on the Father, not on the scorn of mankind. His reward was coming from the Father, not from His enemies. He refused to look to the right or to the left, to be discouraged or to be detoured from the path to the cross. This Apostle Paul says this is the mindset that Christ had, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to His own advantage; rather, He made Himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to death---even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11) The Bible tells us that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. (Hebrews 12:2) The Lord endured the agony because He thought the end result was worth it. He thought we were worth it. And it's going to take us all of eternity to thank Him for it.