Sunday, November 07, 2010

Isaiah 50:1-52:12 - He Who Comforts

Raphael's Isaiah
Opening thought: Have you ever had a rough few days? Ever had a day you wished you hadn’t gotten up? Ever found at the end of the day that you were your own worst enemy? The passage before us today speaks to exactly that.

Pray and Read:  Isaiah 50:1-52:12

Contextual Notes:
We are well into the second half of Isaiah’s prophecy, and it is focused on a message of comfort (chap. 40). That comfort is found in a Chosen Servant on whom the Spirit rests, a Light for the nations (42:1, 3-4, 6-7), who will comfort the failed servant Israel (42:9-25) by overcoming the horrible punishment of sin (43:24-25, 27; 44:22).

That Servant is our only hope of salvation (chaps. 43-44), for he alone is the Sovereign Lord (chaps. 45-47). That Servant comforts us despite our stubbornness (Isaiah 48), in his person alone (Isaiah 49:1-13), by restoring what was lost (Isaiah 49:14-26). That brings us to today’s passage.

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 50:1-52:12 to teach Israel that the Servant who comforts is faithful, will not fail, and will bring Good News.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Servant who comforts us.

Key Verse: 51:12

Sermon Points:
  1. He who comforts is faithful (Isaiah 50).
  2. He who comforts will not fail  (Isaiah 51).
  3. He who comforts brings Good News (Isaiah 52:1-12).

Exposition:   Note well,

a.   Isaiah 50 contrasts two servants. The imperfect servant (Israel) has abandoned her relationship with God (50:1-3, 11). The perfect Servant (50:4-10) is sensitive to man’s needs and responds to God (50:4-5). Though He suffers, he relies on the Lord and is committed to His Will (50:6-9). Those who fear the Lord obey the Servant’s word (50:10).
b.   50:1-3 – The people swing back and forth from gratitude to God to a feeling of abandonment (1:9; 40:27; 49:4, 14). God assures them of his faithfulness. Isaiah 50:1 is paralleled in Hosea 1-2 (God never divorced his people) and 2 Kings 4:1-7 (God never sold his people; 48:8-11; 49:15). Their sins put them in exile, not God. God is pursuing them to help them (50:2-3).
c.   APPLICATION: We all do that, don’t we? Sometimes we feel like that with our God we can knock down a wall. Then other times we feel like the wall just fell on us. Our emotions are good things. God made them for us to experience the height and depth of life, but sometimes our emotions can seem to overcome us. It doesn’t matter how you feel, God is always faithful. You can bank on it. You can live on it. You can be sure of it. At the beginning, middle, and end of the day, the Lord will be faithful to his Word and his promises.
d.   50:4-9 – Third Servant Song (also 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 52:13-53:12). In this song the Servant speaks, describing how he is being instructed, disciplined, and strengthened in his mission. He listens to God and therefore teaches and comforts (50:4; John 3:31-36; 5:19). He is the model disciple, a humble person willing to be taught but not insisting on being the teacher (John 13:12-17). He does not react to adversity or complaints (50:5; Matthew 5:39), nor is he a coward (50:6), but patiently waits on the Lord (50:7; 40:31).
e.   Who is this Servant? Some scholars have a hard time figuring out who this servant is. More liberal theologians who do not believe in predictive prophecy hold that the servant must be Cyrus or perhaps a megalomanic Isaiah. But the text here gives those interpretations fits. This Servant cannot be Cyrus (45:1-4), for Cyrus would not have stood for someone insulting him and pulling out his beard (50:6). He cannot be Isaiah himself because this servant is innocent (50:8-9) and has power to condemn (50:11). The Jewish rabbis traditionally interpret this servant as Israel, but the text here interferes with that interpretation. The point of chapter 50 is that this Servant is in contrast with the undependable servant Israel (49:3) who is in need of redemption herself (50:2). This must be a different individual. Based on the predictions in the first half of Isaiah and the previous Servant Songs since chapter 40, this Servant is human and divine. This must be the Messiah (John 5:22, 27; 8:26).
f.    50:10-11 – The Light: Those who trust in the Lord may sometimes feel their lives are in the dark, without light. In those times they must trust in the name of the Lord and walk in the Light of his Word with will direct them (50:10b; Psalm 119:105). Other sources of light are soon-extinguished torches which will burn those who hold them (50:11).
h.   APPLICATION:  Some days have more light than others. Some days are dark. That is a fact in this life. In days of both light and darkness, this text calls us to trust in the Name of the Lord (that is, his personal character) and walk in the Light of His Word, that Light to the Gentiles. Let him be the lamp unto your feet and a light for your path.

a.   The perfect Servant speaks urgently to God’s people with a series of imperatives emphasizing the need to hear and respond (51:1-16) because there is a coming wrath (51:17-23).
b.   51:1-3 – Look to the rock: Look to Abraham and Sarah (51:1-2) who lived by trust in the Lord (Romans 4:3; Hebrews 11:8-19; 12:1-2). Just as Abraham was blessed, so will Israel be (51:3) as Eden, restored (35:1-10; 41:17-20; 43:19-20; 44:3-5).
c.   51:4-8 – Temporal and eternal: The heavens and earth are contrasted with God’s salvation and righteousness. The material is temporal and will vanish like smoke. Christ’s justice, righteousness, and salvation will last forever (Matthew 10:28). 51:7-8 – Do not fear what others say (51:7). Persecutors, now so confident and strong, will be useless and fragile, like a moth-eaten cloth (51:8)
e.   APPLICATION: It is vital that we anchor our hopes in salvation rather than anything in this passing world. 2 Corinthians 7:1
f.    51:9-11 – Prayer: Awake Lord and act! Isaiah cries out to God to act and carry out his purposes. It is good to pray that the Lord will speed his purposes on earth. Rahab, the primeval monster of Egypt, was overthrown (51:9; Deuteronomy 5:15; 30:7) and made a road out of Egypt (51:10; 40:1-2)
g.   51:12-16 – God’s answer: God answers Isaiah, saying he comforts us now. Before the end of history we can know God’s presence without fear (51:12-13). Their persecutors are like grass, while the Lord they serve is the Creator himself (51:12-13). God will give them the words and shelter them (51:16; Luke 2:12-19). In fact, the cowering prisoners will also be set free. The Creator Himself promises it.
h.   51:17-23 – Awake! Though still in ruins (Nehemiah 1:3; Psalm 75:8), Jerusalem will recover (51:21-22) and God’s wrath will turn on their tormenters (51:23). Isaiah again draws a link between a nation’s abandonment of God’s law and its inability to find a good leader (51:18).

a.   God’s people must wake up (52:1-2). God has punished in the past (52:3-6), and he will soon act to save with a joyous message of salvation available to all (52:7-10). Flee Babylon and return to a pure and holy life! (50:11-12).
b.   52:1-2 Awake! For the third time. God now calls on His people to wake up, to clothe themselves with strength, etc (Zechariah 3:1-5; Matthew 22:11-14). Not a call to self-effort – this liberty is free (52:2-3; cf. 45:13; 55:1-2; Romans 3:24).
c.    ILLUSTRATION: Paul understood that. In Ephesians 2:8-9 he writes that we cannot earn our salvation, but in 6:10-18 he says we must clothe ourselves with the armor of Christ in this world.
d.   APPLICATION: There is not one thing you can do to save yourself. You can never be good enough. You can never do enough. You can never have enough good deeds. The idea that you go to heaven when you die because you’ve been a good person is more akin to Islam and Hinduism than it is to Christianity. The whole point of Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is that we NEED a Savior. We need someone to serve us when we could not serve ourselves, much less others.
e.   52:6-10 – Good news – Their response is to be messengers of the good news. Gospel means good news (Matthew 4:23; Mark 1:14-15; Luke 16:16). What is this good news? Peace (John 14:27), salvation (Luke 7:76-77), God reigns (Matthew 12:28). Beautiful feet run bringing good news of salvation to announce that “your God reigns.”
f.    52:11-12 – Restoration: The stolen holy articles will return with the exiles (52:11; Ezra 6:5). Like the Exodus, God guarantees protection with a vanguard and rearguard (52:12; Exodus 13:21; 14:13-14, 19-20)
g.   APPLICATION: The Good News is that there is restoration for you. Christ brings peace to your life. He brings salvation to your soul. He brings His Kingdom to reign in our world. And there is another thing. He restores those things that were lost – that we lost.
And you? What are you waiting for? The King and Creator of the Universe has provided for you – provided and been your Servant. He is faithful. He will not fail. And he brings you today Good News that he has provided a way of salvation for you to free you from sin, to bring peace to your life, salvation to your soul, his reign to your heart, and restoration to your person. Won’t you respond to him today?