Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—Obedient No Matter What
Some of you are familiar with the name Josh McDowell. He is one of the pre-eminent Christian apologists of our era. A number of years ago, he was invited to speak at Ohio State University convocation center to present the gospel of Jesus Christ. But when he got there, he was treated to a rude reception. People were carrying signs that said "Josh is a Jesus Nazi." "Josh Go Home." "Godis dead."These protestors screamed and yelled obscenities at him.
Afterwards, a reporter asked him, "There were a lot of people out there that obviously didn't want you here. How did that make you feel? Did you have any second thoughts about giving your message?" McDowell responded, "I've been preaching on college campuses for almost twenty years. There have always been people who didn't like me for whatever reason. But I don't do this to get people to like me. I do this to get people to love Jesus. This is what God has called me to do with my life, and I can't think of anything I would rather do." Josh McDowell is a good example of a man who decided to be obedient no matter what.
We see that same quality in the Suffering Servant of Isaiah chapter 50. If you remember, I introduced you to this Servant when we began the previous chapter. Isaiah 49 is the second of three Servant Songs recorded by the Prophet. Isaiah 50:4 begins the third of these songs.
The songs are four poems written about a certain "Servant of Yahweh". God calls the servant to lead the nations, but the servant is horribly abused. The servant sacrifices himself, accepting the punishment due others. In the end, he is rewarded. This Suffering Servant is our Lord, Jesus Christ.
I. THE CONFIDENCE OF THE SERVANT
- four times in verses 4-11, he calls God the Sovereign Lord
- the title occurs in vv. 4,5,6, and 9 and in the Hebrews is Adoni-Yahweh—The Lord God
- this is a Hebrew term that means that Yahweh alone is Lord of Lords—that He is indeed sovereign over His creation
- Yahweh is not merely the God of the Hebrews, but God of all the world—including the heathen nations
- this was an astonishing declaration in a day when every nation had its own set of gods
- by using this expression four times, the servant is declaring, "Look: The people who persecute me and resist my ministry think that they can control me. But they have no control over me. God alone is Lord over the circumstances of my life. Everything that happens in my life is because of His leading and His sovereign purpose."
- repeatedly in Isaiah we have heard the prophet declare God's sovereignty over every sphere of His creation—including the lives of men
- ILLUS. During the early morning hours of Jesus' arrest and numerous trials, he is brought before the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. The 19th chapter of John's gospel tells us the story: Pilate is frustrated because Jesus won't answer his questions. And finally in verse 10, he tries to scare Jesus by saying, "Do you refuse to speak to ME? Don't you know who I am? Don't you know that I have power either to free you or to crucify you?" But instead of Pilate scaring Jesus, Jesus ends up scaring Pilate! He says, "You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above."
A. TRUTH #1—NEVER FORGET THAT GOD IS SOVEREIGN AND IN CONTROL
- the next time you feel overpowered by people or circumstances or situations, remember: God is the One who has the REAL power in your life
- God is the One who can help you
- God is the One who will stand by you through thick and thin
- "Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then will I be confident." (Psalm 27:3, NIV84)
- "For you have been my hope, O Sovereign LORD, my confidence since my youth. From birth I have relied on you; you brought me forth from my mother's womb. I will ever praise you. I have become like a portent to many, but you are my strong refuge. My mouth is filled with your praise, declaring your splendor all day long." (Psalm 71:5-8, NIV84)
- "Then you will go on your way in safety, and your foot will not stumble; when you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." (Proverbs 3:23-26, NIV84)
- "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:16, NIV84)
- and you can be confident that He has your best interests at heart even when things seem dark and grim
- remember when Jesus died on the cross?
- things looked pretty dark and grim that day
- but Jesus believed with all of his heart that God the Father had righteous reasons for why things were happening the way they were
- in Luke 23:46, he said, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit."
- in those word, Jesus is saying "In spite of what is happening to me today, I am putting all of my confidence and all of my trust in you."
II. THE HUMILITY OF THE SERVANT
- "The Sovereign LORD has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary. He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught." (Isaiah 50:4, NIV84)
- notice that The Servant doesn't say, "Look at how smart I am! Look how good my sermons are! Look how compassionate I am toward people."
- instead, he says, "Look at what GOD has done in my life! He's the one who teaches me! He's the one who gets me up in the morning! He's the one who instructs me on what to say and when to say it. He is the Sovereign Lord, and I owe everything to Him."
- in the gospels we learn that nothing Jesus ever said, he just made up on his own "Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work."(John 14:10, NIV84)
- God the Son prayed in order to discover the will of God the Father that He might perfectly obey God in order to reveal Him to men
- the older I get, the more I realize that anything good that comes out of my life is because God who began a good work in me is able to finish it
A. LESSON #2—IT IS GOD WHO WORKETH IN US SEEKING TO ACCOMPLISH HIS WILL
- if we are in Christ, then we will hear what God says and seek to be obedient to it
- "He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God."" (John 8:47, NIV84)
- how do we hear from God?
- we hear God speak most clearly through His Word
- we hear God speak through the Holy Spirit in prayer
- we hear God speak through His Church—including the church's pastors and teachers
- we hear God speak through circumstances and events
III. THE SERVANTHOOD OF THE SERVANT
- "The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back." (Isaiah 50:5, NIV84)
- as we look at this passage we find out that Jesus was also a willing servant a. it says that "The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back"
- sometimes when God opens our ears up to his truth, it's so challenging and so hard to receive that we're tempted to say, "Lord, I don't think that scripture is meant to be taken literally. And if it is, I just want you to know that I can't do it! You're asking too much of me this time!"
- however, the genuine servant of God says, "Even though some of the things God is teaching me are convicting, I'm going to accept it anyway and keep coming back for more. I will not draw back from anything that God wants me to hear."
- in the Gospels, we hear The Servant of Isaiah saying, "Father not my will, but your will be done"
A. TRUTH #3—WE ARE SLAVES TO CHRIST
- "Were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. For he who was a slave when he was called by the Lord is the Lord's freedman; similarly, he who was a free man when he was called is Christ's slave." (1 Corinthians 7:21-22, NIV84)
- the Apostle Paul offers an interesting twist to the believer's relationship with Christ
- actual slaves, when they come to Christ, spiritually speaking, become free in Christ
- actual freedmen, when they come to Christ, spiritually speaking, become slaves to Christ
- Jesus told his disciples in John 8:31-32,"... If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
- in Jesus Christ there is freedom and liberty
- the Biblical word is redemption
- it is a word that connotes deliverance from the enslavement of sin, our captivity to the Law and our bondage to the fear of death
- but in gaining this freedom, at the same moment we become slaves to Christ
- ILLUS. Robert E. Lee is perhaps best known as the daring commander of the Army of Northern Virginia during our American Civil War. What most do not know is that he was a Christian gentleman who despised slavery. During a visit to New Orleans shortly before the war, Lee happened to pass a slave market. On the block was a young man, naked and fearful. Lee's heart went out to the him. He entered the bidding and bought him. To the young black man's astonishment, Lee then set him free. As Lee went out to stride his horse he noticed that the one to whom he had just granted freedom was following him. Lee began riding down the street, still the former slave followed. Finally, Lee stopped, turned to the man and said, "Don't you understand, I bought you to give you your freedom." "I understand." replied the man. "Then why do you keep following me as if I were your owner?" Lee asked. The man replied, "When you set me free, was when I became your servant."
IV. THE SUFFERING OF THE SERVANT
- "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, NIV84)
- in Jewish culture, men took pride in their long beards
- it was a symbol of their manhood
- by tearing out his beard, the people were attempting to tear away his dignity and his manhood
- and not only that, it hurts!
- the text also says that the people spit on The Servant
- is there anything more humiliating and disgusting than having somebody spit on you?
- wouldn't that make your blood pressure rise?
- wouldn't that make you want to fight back and get even?
- this passage has obvious prophetic fulfillment in the arrest, trial, and mocking of Jesus
- in the gospel accounts we witness Jesus being beaten, being spat upon and having his beard ripped out, and yet he never retaliates
- ILLUS. In Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ there is a scene that harkens to this passage. It's the scene where Jesus is being beaten by the Roman soldiers. Two men have mercilessly whipped him with rods until he falls to his knees. They step back believing that have beaten him into submission. But then, slowly, Jesus raises to his feet in a show of defiance and offers his back once again to his tormentors.
- No—He knew it was God's will for him to suffer and be humiliated and die for our sins
- in the words of Philippians 2:8, he became obedient to death, even death on a cross!
A. TRUTH #4—BELIEVERS WILL FREQUENTLY SUFFER
- it's easy to say, "I love you, Lord! I will be obedient to you for the rest of my life!"
- but are you willing to be obedient to God no matter what?
- would you be obedient to Him even if He brought suffering and pain and persecution into your life?
- would you be obedient to the Lord even if he allowed you to be publicly humiliated and stripped of your dignity?
- would you be obedient even if your finances go down the toilet?
- would you be obedient even if God allows someone in your family to come down with cancer?
- would you obedient even if he took from you the most precious person in your life?
- this is where the fair weather Christians frequently get off the bus
- they only want to obey God when things are going well
- as long as God gives them everything they want, as long as God blesses their life, they are faithful
- but when suffering comes, they say, "Forget you, God. I'm calling the shots from now on."
- the question is "What kind of Christian are you?"
- are you the kind that gives up the ghost at the first sign of difficulty?
- are you a phony fair weather Christian?
- or are you the kind of Christian that is determined to do the will of God come hell or high water?
V. THE DETERMINATION OF THE SERVANT
- "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, NIV84)
- in other words, The Servant says, "When the going gets tough, I'm sticking with God. I've made up my mind! I am going to be faithful to Him no matter what!"
A. TRUTH #5—CHRISTIANS WILL PERSEVERE IN THE FAITH
- Christians are to be overcomers Rev. 2-3
My prayer is that each of us here will learn the lesson from the life of The Servant.