Thursday, June 20, 2013

Isaiah 50-51 God's Savior & Salvation

Isa 50:4-9 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. The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears, and I have not been rebellious; I have not drawn back.  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.  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.  He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me!  It is the Sovereign Lord who helps me. Who is he that will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment;the moths will eat them up.
Isa 51:1-6 "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;  look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was but one, and I blessed him and made him many. The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing. Listen to me, my people; hear me, my nation: The law will go out from me; my justice will become a light to the nations.  My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.  Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail.

In Isaiah 50, we have the Messiah speaking in person, describing Himself in His incarnation:
  • A Redemptive Teacher ("The Sovereign Lord has given me an instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary"): The teaching of God's word is central to Jesus' ministry. God has given him an "instructed tongue" and with that he gives out word that "sustains the weary". Jesus' teaching is purposeful and redemptive. It's not just knowledge for the head to tickle the mind but instruction for the heart to comfort and strengthen the weary and the weak. One way to evaluate our preaching and teaching ministry is this: does it cause the congregation to be strengthened so that they can continue to trust God and walk by faith.
  • A Listening Learner ("He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being taught"): A reference to Jesus' habit of spending time alone with God in the early morning: "Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed" (Mark 1:35). The heart of our communication with God (prayer & Bible reading) is to "listen like one being taught". Quiet Time is not a time set apart to tell God what to do, but to listen to His Spirit telling us what we should do as we engage in prayer and study of His Word.
  • A Suffering 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."): Jesus describes the kind of suffering He would endure in the coming days: he would endure physical beating and psychological humiliation. The soldiers would beat him, spit on him and mock him by bowing down to him: "They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand and knelt in front of him and mocked him. 'Hail, king of the Jews!' they said. They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again. After they had mocked him, they took off the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him."
  • A Focused Leader ("Therefore have I set my face like flint,and I know I will not be put to shame"): Jesus was focused regarding his mission. He did not allow all the suffering to turn him away from fulfilling His calling to offer himself as a sin-sacrifice. He set his face like flint: "As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem" (Luke 9:51-52).  He knew what was to befall him at Jerusalem, but he was focused in his mission and went straight for it like an arrow.
What Jesus did at the Cross secure for us salvation. This salvation is described in Isaiah 51 as a life of rejoicing under God's rule: "The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her, thanksgiving and the sound of singing" (51:3).

I just came back from a church camp where the speaker, Dr. Fong Choon Sam (a faculty member of the Baptist Theological Seminary), asked a provocative question: "Are we spiritual beings on a human journey or human beings on a spiritual journey?" I'm inclined to believe the answer is the former--that we are spiritual beings (saints) on a human journey so that we might be fully human. Our "spiritual life" is experienced here on earth, not "somewhere in outer space (where) God has prepared a place". The more spiritual we are, the more human we become--just as human as the Lord Jesus himself in the day of his flesh. As Evangelical Christians, we tend to focus on Jesus' birth and death, but ignore his thirty-three years as a human being. But I do believe that the goal of salvation is to make us like the human Christ because it's only when we have become like Him that we can say we are fully "saved."

Father, thank You that You have saved us from animal-behavior to become fully human--and therefore fully divine like Christ. May You deliver us from a spirituality that divorces us from this world but help us to live like fully saved humans after the pattern of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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