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Psalm 20:7 “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”

This Psalm is characteristics not just of OT kings and armies but of us today who put hope in leaders and governments in the place of God. It is wrongful for the people of God to advocate in greater ways for worldly power and earthly citizenship than they do in advancing the way and work of God’s kingdom. The setting for the book of Isaiah reminds God’s people in the midst of earthly powers competing of who is truly in charge and reigning in power.

There are 12 Prophets in the Bible, and Isaiah is one of the major and majestic of all the prophets. Chuck Swindoll says[1], “What Michael Angelo is among the artists, what Beethoven is among the musical composers, what Lincoln is among the presidents, what Spurgeon is among the preachers, what Lombardi and Wooden are among coaches, Isaiah is among the prophets.”

Isaiah’s name means Yahweh [The Lord] is salvation. His book is like a miniature Bible.

–        Bible has 66 books               Isaiah has 66 chapters

–        Bible 39 OT & 27 NT             Isaiah 1-39 is law & judgment, 40-66 is grace and deliverance

–        Bible is Christocentric           Isaiah prophecies of Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection

Isaiah 1:1 “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.

–        Isaiah’s call came during a transfer of power from Uzziah to Jotham (Isa 6:1). His prophetic call and ministry consisted of a grand vision for God. Isaiah would minister among hard soil for those who would not listen (Isa 6:9-13).

–        Isaiah’s ministry widespread of God’s global judgment, pertaining to Judah and Jerusalem (28-29) yet surrounding them as well in Babylon (13:1), Philistia (14:28), Moab (15:1), Damascus (17:1), Cush (18:1), Egypt (19:1), Wilderness of the sea (21:1), Arabia (21:13), Tyre (23:1), and the entire earth (24:1).

–        Isaiah’s prophetic ministry was lengthy covering the period of 4 kings. His ministry was among the affluent as he served the nation; which was a difficult ministry to those who were often affluent yet apathetic to the needs of the poor (Isa 1:17; 3:14-15, etc.), and prideful and without direct need for God.

o   Uzziah became king when he was 16 years old and reigned 52 years in Jerusalem (2Chron 26:3). Uzziah started well but became proud and fell away from God and died.

o   Jotham, son of Uzziah, became king at 25 years old and reigned 16 years (2Chron 27:1). Jotham was faithful to God and died.

o   Ahaz, son of Jotham, became king at 20 years old and reigned 16 years (2Chron 28:1). Ahaz did not walk with God. He burned his son as an offering to idols (2Kings 16:3) and encouraged the nation in child sacrifice (2Kings 17:17, 31); and worshiped idols instead of following God. “Their children did likewise, and their children’s children – as their fathers did, so they do to this day” (2Kings 17:41). #grewUNgodlygenerations

o   Hezekiah, son of Ahaz, became king when he was 25 years old and reigned 29 years (2Chron 29:1). Hezekiah walked with God and sustained national challenges. Assyria invades Judah but Hezekiah leads God’s people to trust in God. Isaiah prays and God spares Judah (2Chron 32:20-23; 2Kings 19:20-37; Isa 37). Hezekiah also made wrongful alliances and foolish choices – he welcomed Babylon into his nation to see the treasuries, thereby giving his enemy the upperhand in future attacks (2Kings 20:12-19; Isa 39).

 

Isaiah prophecies to Hezekiah and Judah prior to their downfall, but with assurance of both judgment and faithfulness of God’s mercy.

EXAMINE       Behold, Our Coming Savior               Isaiah 40:1-9 Behold Our Coming Savior_Dec 2016.jpg

Our coming Savior gives us comfort for our sin (Isa 40:1-2). God instructs Isaiah to change the prophetic tone from judgment to grace, where God’s people hear of His future deliverance in the coming Savior. Note the prophecy is for “my people”, the people of God who receive the grace gifts. Those who are not God’s people will not receive His blessings or benefits.

The first sign of grace for God’s people is comfort for our sin. Comfort (nāham) is a word that means to breathe deeply; as if you came alongside someone to weep and console. The same word is used in Isaiah where each context is God’s people receiving comfort and responding in praise with song and shouts of joy.

Isa 12:1 “I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, that you might comfort me… sing praises… shout and sing for joy”

Isa 49:13, 14-15 “Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains into singing! For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted… has the Lord forgotten me… [no!] God has engraved you on the palm of his hands.” 

Isa 52:9 “Break forth together into singing, you waste places of Jerusalem, for the Lord has comforted his people; he has redeemed Jerusalem.”

 

God’s comfort for our sin involves peace and pardon.

–        Peace: “her warfare has ended”. The phrase implies a discharge of soldiers once the victory was won. Remember, these are people who will be surrounded, defeated, and exiled by their enemies. Yet, God is reminding them that they may lose the battle, but He has already won the war.

 

–        Pardon: “her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double [ample] for all her sins.”  God promises the hand that punishes for sin will be the same hand that will pardon. Double payment means “folded in half”, as to imply God’s payment for sin is two-sided or mirrored in His justice and mercy.[2] God’s folding of justice and mercy contains hidden realities beyond our comprehension. Or in other words, God’s double payment is more characterized in the ample means of grace; Judah’s sin was great but God’s grace was greater cover every sin and remove every sentence of punishment.

o   Isaiah 53:4-6 “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes 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.”

o   Micah 7:19-20 “Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of his inheritance? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as you have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.”

 

The summary idea is that God’s people have been shocked with the overwhelming news of God’s judgment and their breath has been taken away. Yet, God is reassuring His people to take a deep breath and be comforted by the truth that no matter what they will not be forgotten, and they will be rescued. God’s comfort is not dismissing their sin but is His devotion to perform all that is necessary for taking the punishment of sin – even at cost to Himself. God’s pardon has amply paid for the sins of Judah so that there is no more to pay. He will pay doubly in the sending of His very own Son to take away their punishment and die in their place.

As we celebrate Christmas, we are reminded that God’s gift to us is comfort for our sin. Jesus’ life was more than the birth of a baby but the sacrificial death of a man. Christmas would eventually lead to Good Friday, and Good Friday would eventually lead to Resurrection Sunday. The mystery and majesty of God’s amazing plan for salvation is all wrapped up in Jesus.

 

◊      Jesus is God’s gift to you.

è Have you opened the gift of Jesus by turning from sin and trusting Him as Lord and Savior?

è Are you taking care of the gift of Jesus by growing in faith?

è Are you sharing the gift of Jesus by telling others in words and deeds?

 

Our coming Savior gives us glory for our valleys (Isa 40:3-5). A second gift from God is glory for our valleys. A voice cries out for all to pay attention and adhere. The prophetic voice instructs for God’s people to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight a highway for our God. The language describes the work performed for a king’s processional journey into a city or town. The people sought to create a smooth journey in transporting the king, so valleys and hills were evened out and room was made along the highways for all to gather to see the glory of the king.

In the NT, the prophet’s language of physical preparations for a king is used in the sense of spiritual preparation in our heart and life needed to make way to see the glory of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Matthew 3:1-3). The essential element of spiritual preparation required repentance.

Life is lived in the valley. In order to reach the mountain top and glorious experiences we must journey through desert highways and uneven terrain. It is only in the tumult of our journey that we are able to see the glory of God. And God’s glory is most greatly revealed in the valley of the shadow of death.

In God’s eyes, Christmas makes sense only if it’s the beginning of the story and not the end. According to the biblical narrative, Christmas is not the mountain top but the valley that will endure a humble birth and a hard life of suffering. God’s glory is revealed only after suffering and death. If we are to experience glory in our valleys we too must suffer and die to self in following the Savior.

◊      Glory only occurs through struggle. Embrace the valley hard work of faith and repentance.

è What desert highways or uneven terrain might you be walking currently? What is God trying to teach you? In the midst of such circumstances, how do you prepare the way of the Lord and make straight the way for God?

 

Our coming Savior gives us truth for our circumstances (Isa 40:6-9).

A second prophetic cry from Isaiah in this passage is for timeless truth in an ever-changing culture. Isaiah says, human life and its leaders may appear constant, but in the end they will fade. The Lord simply blows and humanity and civilization will depart and disappear from time. Yet, it is God’s word that stands forever. While all the surrounding nations appear to reign in power, including Babylon who will conquer Judah, it is only God who will endure with everlasting strength. The rest of the chapter gives a picture of God’s sovereign strength and sustaining truth.

o   Isa 40:10 “Behold, the Lord God comes with might and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him and his recompense before him.”

o   Isa 40:15 “Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold he takes up the coastlands like fine dust… All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.”

o   Isa 40:22-23 “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers… who brings princes to nothing and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness”

o   Isa 40:28-29 “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.”

Parable[3]: One day a little farm boy was out walking the market streets and heard loud clanging. Clang, clang, clang, clang. The young boy followed the noise to the shop of a blacksmith where he saw a mighty man lifting a long heavy hammer and then crashing it down on a glowing piece of metal. The blacksmith was using the force of an anvil to form metal into whatever shape he desired. All sorts of metal pieces were shaped for wagons and carriages, gates and fences, plows and tools, and even horseshoes. Every blow of the heavy anvil made the little boy wince, but then look with expectation for how the metal pieces would be shaped into a useful tool. However, the curiosity of the boy grew so that when the blacksmith stopped his hammering to catch his breath, he asked, “Since the hammer swings so hard, won’t you break the anvil head?” The blacksmith just smiled and responded, “Son, this anvil is over a hundred years old and has worn out many hammers.”

God’s word is an anvil that has worn out many thousands of hammers. Throughout history in every civilization and every generation there has been new, huge, and heavy hammers. Strong and smart individuals have sought to pound the anvil of God’s word into non-existence. However, the grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

Isaiah sought to remind Judah that no human leader or government can sustain or save greater than God. The ear of man is unable to solace and the arm of flesh is ineffective to save us. But, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save or his ear dull, that it cannot hear” (Isa 59:1). God has promised and delivered in His plan to save the world. Our coming Savior Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of Isaiah and the other prophets.

 

◊      Only God’s word is worthy of a life foundation.

è Is your life about fads or foundations, trends or timeless truth? In other words, are there inconsistencies in your behaviors from your stated beliefs?

è As our culture promotes the agenda of power, pleasure, and prosperity, how is your life different priority of Jesus Christ?

 

APPLY/THINK

A closing thought to Isaiah’s message is that we are called not just to receive the good news but relay the greatness of God to all the world. We are heralds of good news, lifting our voice with strength and without fear.

 

Practical ways SPBC can herald the good news in December 2016

–        Pray and promote. Pray for our church worship team and me as we share the good news in song and sermons. Pray for your faith witness to invest and invite others toward Jesus. Share an inviter card and utilize our social media.
–        Give generously. Consider giving your most expensive gift to our Christmas Missions Offering. 100% funds will go toward international missions through our IMB and our own missions going.

 

–        GO-SPEL. We cannot spell gospel without GO. Who is God sending you to tell the good news? Where & when is God sending you? Will you pray about going to Nicaragua Aug 8-15 2017? Will you pray about going to The Well in 2017 for a tour and perhaps a service project? Our Savior has come so that we can go!

 

–        Come to the comfort of Christ in whatever faith decision is upon your heart today…

 

[1] Charles Swindoll, God’s Masterwork Volume Three: Poets, Prophets and Promises – A Survey of Job – Daniel, “Isaiah: Prince Among The Prophets”.

[2] J. Alec Motyer, Tyndale Commentary: Isaiah 40:2.

[3] Adaped from John Piper, http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/thanksgiving-toward-the-past-faith-toward-the-future