Isaiah: The Suffering Servant of Yahweh: 53:4-6. Part One.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:4-6)

Isaiah 53:4-6 is the centerpiece of Isaiah’s song of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. This is not only the case grammatically and structurally with this section being the third of five sections in the oracle, but it also the central focus theologically.

God presents the definitive Old Testament text regarding substitutionary atonement. What the Old Testament previously illustrated with the sacrificial system centered in the tabernacle and temple, God now reveals in the person and work of the Servant of Yahweh: Jesus Christ. Today, we examine vs. 4. Take notice that all the verbs, unless otherwise noted, are in the perfect tense, which means a past completed action with continuing results.

“Surely he has borne our griefs.” The primary subject throughout this section concerns Yahweh’s Servant. The secondary subjects are the ones for whom the Servant of Yahweh died therefore providing a substitutionary atonement. The word borne means to take up and to bear. What is borne by the Servant are our griefs. This refers to our sicknesses, illnesses, wounds and afflictions caused by our sins.  

“…and carried our sorrows.” The word carried means to bear or to be loaded down with a heavy load. The load which the Servant carried was our sorrows. This refers to our personal pain and anguish caused by our own sin, and by others who have sinned against us.

“…yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” However, even though the Servant bore the sinner’s grief and sorrows caused by sin and carried the resulting anguish and pain, sinners, and Isaiah includes himself in this category, determined, assumed and evaluated the Servant’s suffering as His own.

Isaiah at this point in the oracle employed three passive participles to describe the Servant’s suffering. To be stricken means to be violently touched and damaged. To be smitten means to be struck down, hit, injured and killed. To be afflicted means to be oppressed, wretched and emaciated. These words speak of God’s righteous wrath against sin.

Dr. John MacArthur comments that, “Even though the verbs are past tense, they predict happenings future to Isaiah’s time, i.e., “prophetic perfects” in Hebrew here and elsewhere in this Servant-song. Isaiah was saying that the Messiah would bear the consequences of the sins of men, namely the griefs and sorrows of life, though incredibly the Jews who watched him die thought he was being punished by God for his own sins. Matthew found an analogical fulfillment of these words in Jesus’ healing ministry (see Matt. 8:16–17), because sickness results from sin for which the Servant paid with his life (Isaiah 53:7–8; cf. 1 Peter 2:24).”

Take an opportunity today to thank Jesus for bearing your griefs, carrying your sorrows and enduring God’s wrath on your behalf.     

Soli deo Gloria!

 

Isaiah: The Suffering Servant of Yahweh: 53:1-3.

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” (Isaiah 53:1-3)

Isaiah’s rhetorical question stems from the immediate preceding context of Isaiah 52:13-15. In light of this previous revelation concerning the person and work of the Servant of Yahweh, the prophet wonders aloud who would believe what had been spoken; not only from him in particular, but also from the believing remnant of God’s people in general.

“Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Isaiah acknowledged only but a few would trust, depend, commit and worship the Servant of Yahweh. They would not believe what they heard. Additionally, very few would acknowledge that this revelation came from God and His strength of His might.

John Calvin commented that, “It is a holy complaint made by one who wished that Christ should be known by all, and who, notwithstanding of this, sees that there are few who believe the Gospel, and therefore groans and cries out, ‘Who hath believed our report?’ Let us therefore groan and complain with the Prophet and let us be distressed with grief when we see that our labor is unprofitable.”  

For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.” Isaiah’s lament regarding the ambivalence of God’s people towards God’s Servant, is understood by the fact that there is nothing particularly noteworthy about the Servant’s appearance.

The Servant grew up humanly before God like a tender shoot from the lineage of King David (Isaiah 11:1). The Servant grew up, as it were, like a root out of dry ground. In other words, He grew up in an area where one would not expect an individual from David’s lineage to live. He also did not look like a royal person who would be desired and admired.

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Instead, God’s people would despise and reject the Servant. He was regarded with contempt and was forsaken (John 1:10-11).

The Servant was a man of sorrows, pain and anguish. He was acquainted and knowledgeable with grief, affliction and trouble. He was so despised, he was repulsive to people.

Isaiah’s conclusion is that “we” did not esteem the Servant. Isaiah includes himself in this condemnation. The people did not think the Servant was very important. People still feel that way.

It should again be noted that the past tense state of being verb “was” is repeatedly used by the English translators, of the Hebrew text, to convey the certainty of this rejection of the Servant, even though Isaiah is prophesying about the future.

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “The prophet foresees the hatred and rejection by mankind toward the Messiah/Servant, who suffered not only external abuse, but also internal grief over the lack of response from those he came to save (e.g., Matt. 23:37Luke 13:34). By using the first person, the prophet spoke for his unbelieving nation’s aversion to a crucified Messiah and their lack of respect for the incarnate Son of God.”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: The Suffering Servant of Yahweh: 52:13-15.

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. 14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— 15 So shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand” (Isaiah 52:13-15).

The Prophet Isaiah began his magnificent song of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh by calling his readers to attention. He said, “Behold.”  He used this word in order to emphasize an idea or doctrine. He wanted God’s people to pay attention and to take notice of what He was going to say.

To begin with, Isaiah emphasized three characteristics of Yahweh’s Servant. First, Yahweh’s servant “shall act wisely.” The LORD’s Servant would be prudent, would possess wisdom and understanding and He would succeed in His task. Additionally, the Servant “shall be high and lifted up.” This meant that He would continually be lifted up and elevated in praise and worship higher than anyone or anything else (Phil. 2:9; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22). Finally, He would be “exalted.” He would receive a high status of honor.

However, the exaltation of the Servant was not because of His regality or beauty. “As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind” (Isaiah 52:14). Rather, this Servant was a source of astonishment. He would be deserted and abandoned. He was disfigured beyond any other human being. Notice the past tense state of being verbs which the prophet uses. The many “were” astonished and His appearance “was” so marred. Isaiah grammatically used what is known as the prophetic perfect tense. He was indicating that the work of the Servant, while in this context was yet future, was already accomplished in the sight of Yahweh.

“So shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand” (Isaiah 52:15). The Servant would not be viewed as important. Yet, He would accomplish the most important work on behalf of sinful mankind: the salvation of sinners.

The word “sprinkle” is associated with ceremonial cleansing by the priest under the Mosaic Law (Leviticus 4:6; 8:11; 14:7). This Servant, who many did not considered important at all, would provide the most important thing for individuals, nations and their kings: cleansing from sin (John 1:29; Hebrews 10:1-14).

That is why they will eventually shut their mouths. They will have nothing to say about, and to, Him who they did not understand, comprehend or want.

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “Ultimately, when the Servant rules over his kingdom, he will receive international recognition for the effectiveness of his reign (cf. Philippians 2:9). The Servant must undergo inhuman cruelty to the point that he no longer looks like a human being. His appearance is so awful that people look at him in astonishment (53:1–3Psalm 22:1-6Matthew 26:67; 27:30John 19:1-3). At his exaltation, human leaders in the highest places will be speechless and in awe before the once-despised Servant (cf. Ps. 2). When he takes his throne, they will see the unfolding of power and glory such as they have never heard. Paul applied the principle in this verse to his apostolic mission of preaching the gospel of Christ where Christ was yet unknown (Rom. 15:21).”

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: Violets on the Heel.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explained that, “Mark Twain once wrote that “forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” Though this man was by no means a Christian, this quote does depict the biblical truth that true forgiveness never comes without a cost to the forgiver. Though crushed, the violet refuses to withhold a good gift but absorbs the crushing blow, blessing the heel that has injured it. The same thing happens every time forgiveness is offered — the offended person, while not overlooking or denying the hurt, refuses to hold the hurt against the offender over the offender’s head permanently. The offended blesses the offender with the promise of real reconciliation and fellowship when the offending party repents and asks for pardon.”

“Such costly acts of forgiveness among violets and heels and people do not even barely approximate the cost the Suffering Servant paid to forgive us. Isaiah 52:13– 53:12, the best known of Isaiah’s “Servant Songs,” depicts this cost most vividly. For the Lord to finally forgive those men and women who trust in His promises of redemption, the offended party must incur a cost. In this case, the offended party is God Himself, who incurred the cost of the death of His only begotten Son. The Suffering Servant of Isaiah, had to be “cut off” for our forgiveness (53:8). Being cut off is a biblical way of referring to divine judgment (Num. 9:13), and so we see the glory of Isaiah’s prophecy and the work of the Suffering Servant. It is one thing not to charge the offender the full cost that forgiveness requires but quite another for the offended person, who has done no wrong, to pay the cost himself. This is what our Father did for us — He paid our cost by sending His Son to be the Suffering Servant so that we might be accounted righteous (Isa. 53:11).”

 Isaiah presents the oracle contained in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 in five stanzas of three verses each: (1) 52:13-15; (2) 53:1-3; (3) 53:4-6; (4) 53:7-9; and (5) 53:10-12.  It begins and ends with the Servant’s exaltation (first and fifth stanzas). Framed within this is the story of his rejection in stanza two and four, which in turn frames the third stanza (53:4–6). This is where the atoning significance of the suffering of Yahweh’s Servant is expounded. The third stanza functions as the centerpiece of the oracle.

I encourage you to begin memorizing this song of the suffering of the Servant of Yahweh, beginning with the first stanza, Isaiah 52:13-15. It is this first stanza which we will examine when next we meet.

13 Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.

14 As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—

15 So shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.

 Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Isaiah: The Suffering Servant of Yahweh.

The seventh major division in the Book of Isaiah contains the theme of The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

The fifth section (52:13-53:12) is perhaps one of the most significant portions of the Old Testament, if not in all of Scripture. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 has often been called the fifth gospel. It is centered on the theme of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh. It is a monumental presentation of the substitutionary atonement by Yahweh’s Servant, who is also Yahweh’s Son. The New Testament declares Him to be Jesus Christ.

Dr. John Walvoord commented that, “This is perhaps the best-known section in the Book of Isaiah. Several parts of this passage are quoted in the New Testament: Isaiah 52:15 in Romans 15:21; Isaiah 53:1 in John 12:38 and Romans 10:16; Isaiah 53:4 in Matthew 8:17; Isaiah 53:7–8 in Acts 8:32–33; Isaiah 53:9 in 1 Peter 2:22; and Isaiah 53:12 in Luke 22:37. Most of this vivid passage concerns the suffering and rejection of the Servant, but the main point (in Isaiah 52:13; 53:11–12) is that His suffering will lead to exaltation and glory. True, the suffering is important, but His glory, which will be revealed, is equally important for it will show that the Servant did the will of God voluntarily. The Servant was rejected (chaps. 49–50), and then the remnant was exalted (51:1–52:12). Now the Servant is to be exalted (52:13–53:12).”

Dr. John MacArthur writes that, “This is the last and most memorable of the four Messiah/Servant-songs (cf. 42:1–9; 49:1–13; 50:4–11). This section contains unarguable, incontrovertible proof that God is the author of Scripture and Jesus is the fulfillment of messianic prophecy. The details are so minute that no human could have predicted them by accident and no imposter fulfilled them by cunning. Clearly this refers to Messiah Jesus, as the NT attests (cf. Matt. 8:17Mark 15:28Luke 22:37John 12:38Acts 8:28–35Rom. 10:161 Pet. 2:21–25). It is often alluded to without being quoted (cf. Mark 9:12Rom. 4:251 Cor. 15:32 Cor. 5:211 Pet. 1:191 John 3:5).”

Dr. Don Carson writes, regarding Isaiah 52:13-53:12, that, From the great homecoming we turn to the solitary figure whose agony was the price of it. We are at the heart of the book, the center of its whole pattern of sin and righteousness, grace and judgment.”

Pastor Charles H. Spurgeon wrote that Isaiah 52:13-53:12 was “the Bible in miniature, the Gospel at its essence”

Martin Luther once remarked that, “Every Christian ought to be able to repeat it (Isaiah 52:13-53:12) by heart.”

It is to this particular text that we will give our attention for the next several days. I encourage you to take up Luther’s challenge to memorize Isaiah 52:13-53:12. May the Holy Spirit engrave its truth upon each of our hearts.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Isaiah: The LORD’s Encouragement to the Godly.

The seventh major division in the Book of Isaiah contains the theme of The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

What is the Servant of Yahweh’s encouragement to the godly? It is centered in the truth that He alone is the chosen seed of Yahweh.

In Isaiah 51:1-2, the LORD reminded His chosen people that they were descendants of the Patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah. God’s chosen people have a rich heritage of faith (Romans 4; Hebrews 11:8-19).

Isaiah 51:3-8 refers to the future Millennial Kingdom. It will be at this time that God promises to destroy all of His enemies and will rule over all the nations.

Isaiah 51:9-11 is a prayer by God’s people. The prayer is for God to do all which He has promised to do.

God’s response to His people’s prayer is His personal assurance that He will always protect them (Isaiah 51:12-16).

God’s people are given two divine wake-up calls. The first has to do with the LORD’s wrath (51:17-23). The cup of God’s wrath will be transferred from Jerusalem and given to the enemies of Jerusalem. The second has to do with the LORD’s power (52:1-6, 11-12). God’s people will be clothed with God’s strength and He will deliver them from Babylon. Therefore, God’s people were to shout the glorious news of God’s deliverance (52:7-10).

The eternal truth emanating from Isaiah 51-52:12 is that just as God would rebuild Israel in the 7th century B.C., He is in the same sense currently rebuilding His people whose sin was destroying them. He is creating a profitable and fruitful people from what was once a barren, spiritual desert (I Peter 2:1-5).

Soli deo Gloria!

Isaiah: The LORD’s Comfort and Deliverance.

The seventh major division in the Book of Isaiah contains the theme of The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

What comfort and deliverance does the Servant of Yahweh provide for God’s people? Isaiah 49:14-26 and 50:1-3, 10-11 provides the answer.

To begin with, God’s people have a complaint (49:14). They believe that in the midst of persecution and suffering that God has forsaken and forgotten them. Have you ever felt this way? Many believers have.

It is during such times as this that God graciously and gently reminds His people that He never will leave or forsake them (50:1-3; Hebrews 13:1-6). Rather, it is often His people who forsake and forget Him.

However, in spite of the believer’s faithlessness to God, God in His faithfulness reassures His people that He still loves them (49:15-26). His love is stronger than that of a nursing mother and her infant (49:15). His care and comfort are compared to an engraving on the palms of His hands (49:16). His promises are that He will destroy the believer’s enemies (49:17-18), He will gather His people and bless them (49:19-21), and He will provide for them (49:22-26).

What is the believer’s responsibility in the midst of all these promises from the LORD? Believers are to fear and obey the LORD and not look to themselves (50:10-11).

May we ever continually depend upon the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Isaiah: The Call and Mission of the Servant of Yahweh.

The Book of Isaiah contains eight major divisions. Thus far, we have examined the first six. These include: I. The LORD is the Holy One of Israel (1-12); II. Oracles against the Nations (13-23); III. The Little Apocalypse (24-27); and IV. Judgment and Salvation (28-35); and a Historical Interlude, featuring Isaiah and King Hezekiah (36-39); V. The Glorious Kingdom of God (40-48).

The seventh division is The Ministry of Restoration (49-55). This section focuses on the particular individual referred to as the Servant of Yahweh. The Prophet Isaiah heralds not only the person known as the Servant, but also His work.

The person and work of the Servant is highlighted in the following areas. First, there is the Call and Mission of the Servant (49:1-13). Second, the Comfort for Israel provided by the Servant (49:14-26). Third, Israel’s Deliverance through the Servant (50). Fourth, the Servant’s Encouragement to the Godly (51:1-52:12). Fifth, the Suffering Servant (52:13-53:12). Sixth, the Renewal of the Covenant by the Servant (54-55).

Isaiah highlights the unique relationship between Yahweh and His Servant in 49:1-13 and 50:4-9. Isaiah previously identified the Servant as Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14) and as a child born and given (Isaiah 9:1-7).

Isiah 49 begins with the Servant speaking of Himself in the first person regarding His call and mission. The Servant recalls that Yahweh commissioned Him for His work prior to His physical birth (49:1) and that He would be a mighty weapon for Yahweh (49:2). See Isaiah 50:4-9.

Isaiah then records the words of Yahweh to the Servant (49:3, 5-13). The Servant would display Yahweh’s glory (49:3). The Servant would also redeem Israel (49:5) and be a light to the nations (49:6). Following the rejection of the Servant, He will then be honored by all nations (49:7). Following His suffering, the Servant will usher in the Millennium (49:8-13).

The prophet then reveals the words of the Servant to Yahweh. While His labor seems to be for nothing, the Servant trusts in Yahweh (49:4). The Servant acknowledges that Yahweh has given Him perfect wisdom in order to comfort those in need (50:4). Therefore, the Servant will obediently do Yahweh’s will even when He suffers for it (50:5-7). Yahweh will totally vindicate the Servant (50:8-9).

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

Isaiah: The Attributes of God.

Isaiah 45-48 forms a comprehensive whole in its treatment of not only God’s sovereignty in choosing to use the Persian King Cyrus, but also His attributes.

The Prophet Isaiah begins examining God’s righteous anger by describing the sins of Babylon. These include merciless cruelty, materialism, and pride (47:6-7, 8, 10).

It is because of these sins that God brings shame upon Babylon (47:1-4). The suffering the LORD brings upon them includes crushing their idols (46:1-2), crushing their military power (47:5), and brining about this destruction in a single day (47:9, 11–15; Daniel 5).

However, God is the God of salvation. The deliverance from sin’s penalty, power and eventual presence is universally offered to all (45:22-25). It is effectually given to God’s people (48:20-22).

The LORD is also faithful. He is faithful in His care (46:3-4), but also in His correction (48:16-17).

God is unique. There is no idol, however expensive, that can ever equal Him (46:5-9).

The LORD is omnipotent. He created all things (48:13). He used Cyrus to rebuild the Jewish Temple (46:11-13; 48:1-15). The LORD does what He desires to do (46:10).

The LORD is eternal (48:12), gracious (48:1-11), and is grieved by our sin (48:18-19).

Let all of us worship the LORD today not only in the truth of who He is, but also with a full heart of love and devotion for all that He is.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Belgic Confession: LORD’S DAY 31, 2020.

On each Lord’s Day this year, we will reproduce devotional articles taken from The Belgic Confession. The Belgic Confession, written in 1561, owes its origin to the need for a clear and comprehensive statement of Reformed Theology during the time of the Spanish inquisition in the Lowlands. Guido de Brès, its primary author, was pleading for understanding and toleration from King Philip II of Spain who was determined to root out all Protestant factions in his jurisdiction. Hence, this confession takes pains to point out the continuity of Reformed Theology with that of the ancient Christian creeds.

The oldest of the doctrinal standards of the Christian Reformed Church and the Reformed Church in America is the Confession of Faith, popularly known as the Belgic Confession, following the seventeenth-century Latin designation “Confessio Belgica.” “Belgica” referred to the whole of the Netherlands, both north and south, which today is divided into the Netherlands and Belgium. The confession’s chief author was Guido de Brès, a preacher of the Reformed churches of the Netherlands, who died a martyr to the faith in the year 1567.

During the sixteenth century the churches in this country were exposed to terrible persecution by the Roman Catholic government. To protest against this cruel oppression, and to prove to the persecutors that the adherents of the Reformed faith were not rebels, as was laid to their charge, but law-abiding citizens who professed the true Christian doctrine according to the Holy Scriptures, de Brès prepared this confession in the year 1561. In the following year a copy was sent to King Philip II, together with an address in which the petitioners declared that they were ready to obey the government in all lawful things, but that they would “offer their backs to stripes, their tongues to knives, their mouths to gags, and their whole bodies to the fire,” rather than deny the truth expressed in this confession.

Along with The Heidelberg Catechism and the Canons of Dort, The Belgic Confession comprise what is collectively referred to as the Thee Forms of Unity. Article #37 of the Belgic Confession is as follows.

Article #37: The Last Judgment.

Finally we believe, according to God’s Word, that when the time appointed by the Lord is come (which is unknown to all creatures) and the number of the elect is complete, our Lord Jesus Christ will come from heaven, bodily and visibly, as he ascended, with great glory and majesty, to declare himself the judge of the living and the dead.

He will burn this old world, in fire and flame, in order to cleanse it. Then all human creatures will appear in person before the great judge—men, women, and children, who have lived from the beginning until the end of the world.

They will be summoned there “with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet.”81 For all those who died before that time will be raised from the earth, their spirits being joined and united with their own bodies in which they lived.

And as for those who are still alive, they will not die like the others but will be changed “in the twinkling of an eye” from perishable to imperishable.82 Then the books (that is, the consciences) will be opened, and the dead will be judged according to the things they did in the world,83 whether good or evil.

Indeed, all people will give account of all the idle words they have spoken,84 which the world regards as only playing games. And then the secrets and hypocrisies of all people will be publicly uncovered in the sight of all.

Therefore, with good reason the thought of this judgment is horrible and dreadful
to wicked and evil people. But it is very pleasant and a great comfort to the righteous and elect, since their total redemption will then be accomplished.

They will then receive the fruits of their labor and of the trouble they have suffered; their innocence will be openly recognized by all; and they will see the terrible vengeance that God will bring on the evil ones who tyrannized, oppressed, and tormented them in this world.

The evil ones will be convicted by the witness of their own consciences, and shall be made immortal—but only to be tormented in “the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.”85

In contrast, the faithful and elect will be crowned with glory and honor. The Son of God will profess their names86 before God his Father and the holy and elect angels; all tears will be wiped from their eyes;87 and their cause—at present condemned as heretical and evil by many judges and civil officers—will be acknowledged as the cause of the Son of God. And as a gracious reward the Lord will make them possess a glory such as the human heart could never imagine. So we look forward to that great day with longing in order to enjoy fully the promises of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.

811 Thess. 4:16
821 Cor. 15:51-53
83Rev. 20:12
84Matt. 12:36
85Matt. 25:41
86Matt. 10:32
87Rev. 7:17

Soli deo Gloria!    

Isaiah: I Am the LORD.

“I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other.    I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things.” (Isaiah 45:5-7)

Isaiah prophesies an oracle from God that Cyrus the Great, founder of the mighty Persian Empire, would function as His chosen servant. God use of Cyrus would have a three-fold purpose. First, the LORD used the Persians to crush the Babylonians, Egyptians, Ethiopians and other Gentile nations (45:1-3). Second, the LORD also used Cyrus to be a blessing for Israel (45:4-13).  Third, the LORD wanted all to know, Jews and Gentiles, that He is the only God and Savior (45:14-21).

Isaiah 45:1-4 says, “Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings, to open doors before him that gates may not be closed: “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.”

The prophet instructs us that the LORD may choose to use anyone to accomplish His purposes, even pagan emperors like Cyrus. It is especially interesting that the LORD identifies Judah’s deliverer, from Babylon, by name and many years ahead of the events recorded in Daniel 5. This means that God is not only sovereign but also has the ability to predict and to control future events.

Isaiah 45 is also significant because it strongly affirms the doctrine of God, also known as Theology Proper. All the doctrines, or teachings, found in Scripture have as their basis the doctrine that there is only one God (Deuteronomy 6:1-9). However, it must be noted that biblical monotheism is different from the monotheism of religions such as Judaism and Islam. This is because Christian monotheism is Trinitarian Monotheism. The doctrine of the Trinity is grounded in the truth that there is but one eternal God who has created our universe and that He subsists in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19-20).

Dr. R. C. Sproul comments that, Isaiah 45:5 firmly insists that the God revealed in Scripture is the only God. Note that when we speak of biblical monotheism, we are not speaking of deity in some generic sense. We are not talking about a vague concept of God that we arrive at via philosophical speculation, even though philosophy assists us in studying the doctrine of God. Instead, biblical monotheism proclaims that the only God is the One who redeemed Israel from Egyptian slavery and delivered His law through Moses. In Isaiah 45:5, two different Hebrew words for God appear. First, we have the word Elohim, which is often used as a generic term for deity and is translated in our text as “God.” Isaiah 45:5 also features the specific covenant name of the God of Israel—Yahweh—which is rendered in English as “LORD.” Thus, we could paraphrase today’s passage as “I, the LORD of Israel, am the only deity.”

The LORD’s existence as the only, true God is not dependent upon the recognition of His creation. As one author has written, “Yahweh is the only God regardless of whether we acknowledge Him as such.” 

Dr. Sproul concludes by saying that, “It is not enough to believe in a generic God or to affirm any form of monotheism other than the monotheism of Scripture. There are many monotheists who will die in their sin because they believe in God but not in the true God, the covenant Lord of Israel. Salvation is only in His name, so when we proclaim the existence of God and defend it against detractors, let us be insistent that we are proclaiming that the one God is the God revealed in Scripture.

Soli deo Gloria!  

 

Isaiah: The One, True God.

“And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me. “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments” (Exodus 20:1-6).

Idolatry is having or inventing something in which one trusts instead of or alongside of the only true God, who has revealed himself in the Word” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 95). See 1 Chronicles 16:26; Galatians 4:8-9; Ephesians 5:5; Philippians 3:19. The very first commandment strongly condemns the sin of idolatry.

Religious idolatry is seen in the two other major monotheistic religions: Islam and Judaism. Muslims, worship the Allah of the Qur’an. Modern Judaism worships a unitary deity defined more by rabbinic tradition than by the Old Testament Scriptures. Both Islam and contemporary Judaism are guilty of idolatry because they do not worship the triune God of Scripture.

Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “God demands absolute allegiance from His people, as we have seen in our look at the first commandment. Beside Him there is no god, so it is foolish to trust in other deities who cannot save (Isa. 43:1144:6). To refuse to worship Him but to worship another is idolatry, a grave sin condemned throughout Scripture (Lev. 19:1–4Ps. 31:696:5; Ezek. 6; 1 Cor. 10:1–22Rev. 21:8). “

 “Throughout biblical history, the idolatry that most of the prophets railed against was the serving of pagan deities, beings that people worshipped specifically as gods. Often, those who worshipped these pagan gods built graven images of them, and they constructed altars at high places—sites where these deities were worshipped— within the land of Israel (2 Kings 17:1–23Isa. 44:9–20). Today, we see such crass idolatry within Hinduism, tribal religions, and cultures where professedly Christian churches merely paper over the people’s animistic and polytheistic traditions.”

 Isaiah 43-44 addresses the subject of the veracity of the One, True God of the Scriptures in contrast to the foolishness of man, made idols.  Isaiah describes the God of the Bible as the One, True God of grace and mercy (43:1-28; 44:1–8, 21–28).

Solely on the basis of His grace and mercy, God protects His people (43:1-2, 14-17), prefers His people (43:3-4), gathers His people (43:5–9), enables His people to be His witnesses (43:10–13; 44:6–8), prepares an eternal home for His people (43:18–21),  fills them with His Spirit (44:1–5), forgives their sin (44:21–24), and will rebuild their Temple (44:25–28). The LORD does all this even when His people grieve Him by their sin (43:22–28).

The faithful work of God is contrasted with the uselessness of man-made idols. Idols are worthless (44:9–10), they are the objects of God’s wrath (44:11), are the result of man’s labor (44:12–17) and are wicked for idols blind man to God’s truth (44:18–20).

Dr. Sproul continues by saying, “Anything that we love more than God Himself should be considered an idol. Jesus makes that point implicitly in Matthew 10:37–39, when He rejects any who love their family members more than Him. The Apostle Paul identifies some individuals whose god was “their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Their appetites were so consuming that the Apostle viewed them as worshipping their stomachs. Every fallen culture has its idols, and we must be particularly sensitive to what the world is calling us to worship in place of the one true God. Neither sex nor power nor fame nor anything else deserves primacy in our lives, for none of these things is transcendent—none is the Lord and Creator of all.”

 What are idols in your life? Take the time today to do an extensive heart and soul evaluation. Ask the LORD to keep you from the sin of idolatry by making you aware of anything you may love, which is equal to, or greater than, your love for the LORD.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

Isaiah: God’s Chosen People and God’s Chosen Servant.

Isaiah 41-42 form a cohesive whole regarding the themes of God’s chosen people and God’s chosen Servant. Isaiah introduces the person known as the Servant of the LORD. All these themes are framed within the grand doctrine of the sovereignty of God.

Isaiah introduces the theme of the sovereignty of God by revealing God’s work through a Persian king (41:1–7, 25–29): Some two centuries before this Persian king is born, Isaiah predicts his victories, even calling him by name: Cyrus. (See also 44:28; 45:1). It is the LORD Himself who directs Cyrus’ victories. He also gives the king his strength so that no one is able to within the assault by the Persians.

However, even in the midst of misery, God remembers mercy. He both consoles and corrects Israel, His chosen people (41:8–24). God reminds Israel that He chose them because of Abraham, the friend of God. On the basis of His grace, the LORD will protect and uphold His people by His divine providence and provision. However, because of Israel’s sin of refusing to listen to the LORD or His prophets (42:18-21), God will permit them to be robbed, enslaved and imprisoned (42:22-25).

In the midst of this oracle, Isaiah announces the coming of the Messiah (42:1–9). The Messiah will be filled with the Holy Spirit, He will not quarrel, shout, crush the weak, but fulfill truth and righteousness. He will also act with gentleness, bring justice to all, and usher a kingdom of righteousness. God the Father guaranteed all that the Messiah would accomplish.

Creation’s response to God’s revelation is to praise Him (42:10-12) for not only defeating His enemies (42:13-15), but also delivering His people (42:16-17).

10Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth, you who go down to the sea, and all that fills it, the coastlands and their inhabitants. 11Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the habitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. 12        Let them give glory to the Lord, and declare his praise in the coastlands. 13 The Lord goes out like a mighty man, like a man of war he stirs up his zeal; he cries out, he shouts aloud, he shows himself mighty against his foes” (Isaiah 42:10-13).

The ministry of the Servant of the LORD is simple — to call the people of God to repentance so that the whole world would see Yahweh’s salvation. Today, the Servant of the LORD, Jesus Christ, continues to call God’s people to repent and trust in the promises of God through Christ alone, not only at conversion but throughout their lives.

Soli deo Gloria!

 

 

 

Isaiah: God’s Presence and the Believer’s Restoration.

The Book of Isaiah contains eight major divisions. Thus far, we have examined the first five. These include: I. The LORD is the Holy One of Israel (1-12); II. Oracles Against the Nations (13-23); III. The Little Apocalypse (24-27); and IV. Judgment and Salvation (28-35); and V. A Historical Interlude, featuring Isaiah and King Hezekiah (36-39).

The sixth major division of Isaiah features the theme of the Glorious Kingdom of God (40-48). The Prophet Isaiah heralds words of comfort and deliverance to God’s people.

The overall outline is as follows. A. The Proclamation of God’s Presence and Israel’s Restoration (ch. 40); B. The LORD’s Sovereign Power Over History (ch. 41); C. The People and Witnesses to the LORD’s Redemption (ch. 42:1-13); D. The Restoration of Israel (ch. 42:14-44:23); E. The LORD’s Use of Cyrus (ch. 44:24-45:25); F. The Fall of Babylon and Her False Gods (ch. 46-47); and G. A Call to Escape the LORD’s Judgment on Babylon (ch. 48).

Isaiah 40, addresses the theme of God’s sovereign presence and Israel’s restoration. The chapter describes eight attributes of God.

First, God is a God of mercy (40:1-2). He not comforts His people, but He also forgives them of their sin.

Second, God is glorious (40:3-5). It is within these verses that the ministry of John the Baptist is prophesied. John’s ministry will be one of calling the people to repentance and to prepare the way for the Messiah.

Third, God is eternal (40:6-9). God’s word stands forever, unlike people, and his people are called to proclaim the message of the Lord’s coming.

Fourth, God is gentle (40:11).  God will treat His people like a gentle shepherd.

Fifth, God is omnipotent (40:10, 12, 26). He is sovereign over all creation.

Sixth, God is omniscient (40:13–14). He is all-knowing. He understands all things and needs no one to counsel or advise him.

Seventh, God is sovereign (40:15–17, 21–24). Isaiah says that all nations are as a drop in the bucket, as dust on the scales to the LORD (40:15–17). Additionally, the LORD is enthroned above the circle of the earth (40:21–22): He spreads out the heavens like a curtain and makes his tent from them. Finally, the LORD rules over all people (40:23–24).

Eight, God is unique (40:18–20, 25). He is incomparable.

Israel’s problem in the 8th century B.C. is much the world’s problem today. Humanity has forgotten God’s wonderful attributes and has concluded that God either does not know them or does not care about them (40:27-28).

God’s promise to Israel then, and the church today, is that if people ask in earnest prayer, God will renew their strength (40:29-31).

Dr. Stephen J. Nichols writes that, “Isaiah 40 may very well be one of the most beautiful chapters of the Bible. From the first words—“Comfort, comfort my people”—to the last words of mounting up with wings like an eagle, this chapter is sheer poetry. If I were British, I would simply say, “Brilliant. No obstacle, however formidable, will ever prevail against Him (the LORD). We must see this in our day. The nations rage. The false gods and idols of our age present themselves. We know all too well our own limitations and weaknesses. Our temptation may be to place our confidence in the wrong place. We may rather foolishly put our confidence in ourselves. We might look to the state, to politics as the solution. That temptation has always seemed to be alluring to American Christians in particular. In the face of such temptations, we must put our confidence in God.”

Read and meditate upon the character of God presented in Isaiah 40. Your strength will be renewed.

Soli deo Gloria!