Israel

Listen to me, O coastlands, and give attention, you peoples from afar.  The LORD called me from the womb, from the body of my mother he named my name.  He made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me a polished arrow; in his quiver he hid me away.  And he said to me, “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”  But I said, “I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity; yet surely my right is with the LORD, and my recompense with my God.”  And now the LORD says, he who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him; and that Israel might be gathered to him—for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength—he says: “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:1-6 ESV)

Yesterday, we began to explore the idea of Jesus being the “Servant” in Isaiah who delivers the oppressed not with sword and political might, but through humble service.  Today, we will continue to look at the “Servant” by exploring another of the “servant songs” of this prophetic book.

What God has to say in today’s passage is so great, the whole world needs to hear (verse 1).  The LORD called His Servant from before His physical birth to bring deliverance to the suffering, not with a physical sword wielded by a warrior, but with the sword of His mouth – His words.  While the Servant brings a greater deliverance than can even be imagined, the nation Israel, doesn’t see it and doesn’t accept it.  Yet, God knows this deliverance being offered is so incredible, it is made available not only to the nation, Israel, but to all the nations (peoples) of the world!  This deliverance is offered by another Israel, the Man, the Servant, who was rejected by the nation, Israel.  Praise God that one day the people of Israel will have their eyes opened to the truth of who Jesus really is.  Until then, the question is, “Have the eyes of your heart been opened to see who He is?”

Servant

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations.  He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.  He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.  Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it: “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.  I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.  Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:1-9 ESV)

In the previous chapters of Isaiah, the people of Israel are told repeatedly that they turn to the wrongs things for justice, righteousness, and even life itself.  They turned to idols that could never save.  But now, in this first “servant song” in Isaiah, we see where they should have been turning – to the “Servant” of God.

This doesn’t make sense.  To usher justice into the world, don’t we need someone in power to raise a mighty army to thwart the oppressors?  Shouldn’t we get a charismatic leader who can rally the people into some major protest movement to get the common folk to rise as one against their foe?  In other “servant songs” that follow in Isaiah (49, 50, 52, 53, 61) we see that this “Servant” brings deliverance by suffering.  He represents the people by His sacrificial service, which ends in His own suffering and death.  His death is not a martyr’s death that brings people into the cause.  Typically, people follow a martyr because they see that now that he is dead, someone else must rise and take up the mantle the martyr left behind.  No, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah dies a death where the death itself brings deliverance to the oppressed.  Remember that on the cross, Jesus was not just an example to follow or a martyr that needed someone to keep his movement going.  He died a death that defeated all enemies, including the greatest enemies of all – sin and death.

Amen!

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.  From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.  Long may he live; may gold of Sheba be given to him!  May prayer be made for him continually, and blessings invoked for him all the day!  May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!  May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!  May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!  Amen and Amen! (Psalm 72:12-19 ESV)

This “last of the prayers of David” (72:20) is the type of prayer/blessing used when a king would begin to lead his people.  This makes sense, with the superscription of  the Psalm being “of Solomon.”  David’s prayer and dream for his son and successor was that he would not only receive justice, but extend it to his subjects as he ruled in righteousness (72:1-2).  Like today, the people of David’s day looked to their “politicians” and leaders to rule in such a way that would be a blessing to the people.  The people often looked to the king for deliverance and protection to the weak, since he had the appearance of being strong.

Solomon did not live up to these prayers and the desires of his father.  No earthly king can.  Some leaders are better than others, and their godly lives can be a blessing to others, but ultimately putting our trust in fallible men is misguided.  Only one king can live up to these hopes and dreams and bring true blessing, deliverance, and protection to his followers – King Jesus.  No wonder this Psalm looks past the reign of Solomon as it praises the ultimate King with these words:  May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun!  May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!  Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory!  Amen and Amen!

Amen!  So be it.

Deliverer

O God, when you went out before your people, when you marched through the wilderness, the earth quaked, the heavens poured down rain, before God, the One of Sinai, before God, the God of Israel.  Rain in abundance, O God, you shed abroad; you restored your inheritance as it languished; your flock found a dwelling in it; in your goodness, O God, you provided for the needy.  The Lord gives the word; the women who announce the news are a great host: “The kings of the armies—they flee, they flee!” The women at home divide the spoil—though you men lie among the sheepfolds—the wings of a dove covered with silver, its pinions with shimmering gold.  When the Almighty scatters kings there, let snow fall on Zalmon.  O mountain of God, mountain of Bashan; O many-peaked mountain, mountain of Bashan!  Why do you look with hatred, O many-peaked mountain, at the mount that God desired for his abode, yes, where the LORD will dwell forever?  The chariots of God are twice ten thousand, thousands upon thousands; the Lord is among them; Sinai is now in the sanctuary.  You ascended on high, leading a host of captives in your train and receiving gifts among men, even among the rebellious, that the LORD God may dwell there. (Psalm 68:7-18 ESV)

God delivered His people in the past, as is seen in the deliverance of His people from centuries of slavery in Egypt.  God delivers His people in the present, as is seen in the experience of David as He writes about the victory God gives over his enemies.  God delivers so fully that the deliverance of God’s people will culminate in that future day when God brings His people home to His holy mountain.

This is my testimony since I met Jesus.  He delivered me from all my past sin and the guilt and shame those sins carry.  He deliverers me today as the many enemies I face (and yes, deliverance in this life does not mean I no longer have enemies today) are just obstacles that remind me to trust wholeheartedly in my deliverer.  And I look forward to that day, when I will see my Deliverer face-to-face and will no longer need to look at the enemies of my past and my present anymore.

 

 

 

Prophecy

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?  O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.  Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel.  In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.  To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.  But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people.  All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”  Yet you are he who took me from the womb; you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.  On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.  Be not far from me, for trouble is near, and there is none to help. (Psalm 22:1-11 ESV)

All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship; before him shall bow all who go down to the dust, even the one who could not keep himself alive.  Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation; they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn, that he has done it. (Psalm 22:29-31 ESV)

These words were written by David to describe his own experience 1000 plus years before Jesus, but when Jesus died on the cross, He quoted the first verse as His own.  The rest of the Psalm proclaims the faithfulness of God.  God delivered David’s forefathers who trusted in Him.  He rescued those who cried out to Him.  Those who trusted were not put to shame.

What is amazing is that on the cross, Father God did not deliver His Son.  He did not rescue.  On the cross, Jesus suffered the ultimate shame.  Jesus’ words truly described His experience – on the cross, full of my sin, Jesus was momentarily abandoned by the Father.  He became the “curse” for His people, which made a way for me to be “redeemed” from the curse of the law.  Because He was forsaken during that awful moment, I will never be forsaken by the Father for all eternity.  Because Jesus cried those words of abandonment, I can proclaim God’s faithfulness and righteousness to all generations.

Praise

But you, O GOD my Lord, deal on my behalf for your name’s sake; because your steadfast love is good, deliver me!  For I am poor and needy, and my heart is stricken within me.  I am gone like a shadow at evening; I am shaken off like a locust.  My knees are weak through fasting; my body has become gaunt, with no fat.  I am an object of scorn to my accusers; when they see me, they wag their heads.  Help me, O LORD my God!  Save me according to your steadfast love!  Let them know that this is your hand; you, O LORD, have done it!  Let them curse, but you will bless!  They arise and are put to shame, but your servant will be glad!  May my accusers be clothed with dishonor; may they be wrapped in their own shame as in a cloak!  With my mouth I will give great thanks to the LORD; I will praise him in the midst of the throng.  For he stands at the right hand of the needy one, to save him from those who condemn his soul to death. (Psalm 109:21-31 ESV)

The psalmist describes himself as “poor and needy”, with a “stricken heart”, “gone like a shadow at evening”, “shaken off like a locust”.  Because of his awful circumstance, even his body is in agony.  While the exact source of his suffering is not known, he is journeying through this pain with the added difficulty of having accusers “wag their heads” at him.  Instead of trying to help him and bless him, they speak nothing but curses toward him.  While the psalmist wants relief from his suffering, he also wants his troublers to “get theirs.”  This poor man wants relief – and justice!

God is always just, and always deals with evil.  God is always merciful, and hears the cries of the suffering and pours our His compassion.  How can God do both?  Don’t even those crying out for mercy deserve God’s justice to be dealt out to them, for their own sins and mistreatment of others?  Who among us can claim to always be the victim, and never the perpetrator?  When we ask God to bring justice, don’t we really mean we want others to get what they deserve while we get what we don’t deserve – God’s compassion?

Jesus was the only Man ever to be perfect in how He treated people.  He was the only “perfect” victim.  Yet, as he suffered upon the cross, He did so to satisfy God’s justice toward sinful man by taking the judgment they deserved upon Himself.  In doing so, He also offered God’s compassion, deliverance, and salvation to those who were suffering.  For those of us forgiven by His grace and recipients of His blessing, may we “give thanks to the LORD” and “praise him in the midst of the throng.”  Why not do so today?

Humiliation

Save me, O God!  For the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.  I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched.  My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.  More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies.  What I did not steal must I now restore?  O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.  Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.  For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.  I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.  For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.  When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.  When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.  I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me. (Psalm 69:1-12 ESV)

If you are reading this, I hope that you can never understand David’s deep feelings of abandonment, betrayal, and loneliness.  The shepherd-turned-king was once the revered subject of the songs of the masses, after he killed the giant, Goliath.  Now, something has happened to change the tune.  For some reason, all his friends and family have left him and the only songs sung about him are songs of derision sung by drunks around the campfire (verse 12).

What amazes me about this Psalm is that David does not just cry out to God so he can be relieved of his pain.  David is concerned about any dishonor that his actions may have brought to God’s house and God’s holy Name.

David’s phrase, “For zeal for your house has consumed me” is quoted by Jesus’ disciples in John chapter 2 to describe why Jesus cast the money-changers from the temple courts.  Jesus had the same concern for the integrity and respect of the Father’s house and His Name.  Jesus also experienced the adulation of the crowds and the abandonment and ridicule that followed.  Unlike David, Jesus, the Son of David, did nothing wrong to deserve any of this.  Instead, He experienced the betrayal by a friend’s kiss, the abandonment by all those closest to Him, and even execution between two criminals, for the crimes against God’s Name that you and I committed.  He experienced the ultimate humiliation so I could experience His glory.