The Gentle King Establishes Justice on Earth (Isaiah Sermon 50 of 81)
September 28, 2014 | Andrew Davis
Prophecy, The Kingdom of Christ, Justice of God
One Kingdom After Another
I would Like to ask that you turn in your Bibles to Isaiah 42. And as we continue to go through Isaiah, I want to urge you every week to take the Scriptures and look at the word of God and feed on it. I just move systematically through these chapters, and try to explain what these phrases say. So I'm really very easy to follow, in that regard. Like a very slow-moving target. You know exactly where I'm going, God willing, next week Isaiah 43. So just get ready for it, but we're just going to try to walk through Isaiah 42 today and just feed on the amazing array of images and words, the rich array of words that the Lord has given us here specifically, I believe describing the ministry of Jesus Christ and building a kingdom through astonishing gentleness. And so that's what we're going to see today.
Twenty-five centuries ago, the Prophet Daniel had visions at night and recorded for us in Daniel 7. And in his vision at night, he stood on the shore of the sea and he saw the deep sea stirred and churned up by the four winds of heaven. And up out of this churning sea, came four great beasts, one after the other. And each of these beasts were ravenous and powerful and two of them in particular, specifically depicted as ripping their enemies to shred and devouring flesh. Though we would imagine that all four had that tendency and that nature. And these four beasts represented four great empires that came up out of the churning mass of humanity and took center stage for a while in succession, one after the other. The Babylonian Empire, and then the Medo-Persian Empire, and then the Greek Empire and then the Roman Empire. We've seen since that time over the twenty-five centuries, the exact same patterns. Empires that have been built by viciousness and wickedness and by the pride and arrogance of man and hatred for neighbor, and murder and pillage. This is the way that the world builds its kingdoms, this is the way the world builds its empires.
But about five centuries after Daniel, another king stood in front of a representative of the Roman Empire. This gentle, humble Jewish carpenter, Jesus of Nazareth on trial for his life before Pontius Pilate, was being charged with insurrection, with being a king to challenge Caesar. And Jesus said this: "My kingdom is not of this world." I think what he meant by that is, "My kingdom has nothing of the nature of the kingdoms of this world, it doesn't derive its origin from the world, it's other worldly, it's supernatural, it's a different kind of kingdom." And you look at the next statement he makes there in John's Gospel, He says, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest from the Jews." So, the nature of the kingdoms of this world is this fighting and this conquest but now my kingdom is from another place.
Pilate said, "You are a King, then!" Jesus said, "You are right in saying that I'm a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. And everyone on the side of truth, listens to me." Now, that is how Jesus Christ builds a whole different kind of kingdom in this world and he's been building it for centuries now for millennia, a gentle, irresistible advance of a kingdom that's built by Jesus speaking the truth to people who desperately need to hear it. And they having ears of faith opened by the Holy Spirit, able to hear the saving gospel repenting of their sins entering into, that's the language, entering the Kingdom of Heaven and then thriving in it forever. That's the way this gentle king builds, irresistibly builds his empire. And how radically different is it from what we see in world history?
Introducing the Servant of the Lord
So we come now in Isaiah 42, to the first of four significant prophecies in this section of Isaiah. And we're introduced to this character known as, the servant of the Lord. "Behold my servant," we're going to see that right from verse one, and the servant passage is so-called by those that study Isaiah are very famous, they're well-known, the servant of the Lord is portrayed. And then as things unfold over these chapters, you're going to see the servant of the Lord in Isaiah 42, we're going to see him in Isaiah 49, and then again in Isaiah 50. And then most famously of all in Isaiah 52 and 53, culminating in what's known as clearly the suffering servant who builds an empire by his own suffering, by his own death. Now, the interpretive challenge comes for us, even in this very chapter, in Isaiah 42, when he uses the term "servant" also to refer to Israel, to Jacob and Israel, etcetera, to the nation of Israel. So we're going to have to face that. He calls his servant in this chapter, "Blind and deaf." And said, "Who is blind and deaf, like my servant." Well, I would never use the phrase blind and deaf to refer to Jesus, who I believe the suffering servant definitely is, so we have a challenge.
So I think this is how I harmonize all of this. Israel was called on to be God's servant to witness to the glory of God in this world, but failed through their wickedness and idolatry. Jesus is the personification of everything Israel was supposed to be as the Son of God. He said, "Israel is my first born son," he said that to Pharaoh, "and you wouldn't let him go so I'm going to kill your first born son." He calls him his first born son. Israel is God's first-born son on Earth but that servant, the Jewish nation sinned. And so God sent His own son into the world to embody and fulfill everything Israel was meant to be and do as the servant of the Lord in the world. So that's how I harmonize it. We're going to begin as we just walk through this, Isaiah 42.
I. The Gentle King and His Irresistibly Advancing Kingdom (vs. 1-7)
By looking in verses 1-7, at a gentle King and his irresistibly advancing kingdom. And in verse one, the Lord presents his chosen servant. Look at verse one. "Behold my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight, I will put my spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations." So, the prophecy begins in every translation but the NIV, with the word "behold." Now, I love the NIV, been memorizing the NIV84 for years. They just don't like the word "behold," I don't know why but I love the word behold. You're saying, "But it's a bit archaic." That's why I love it. It's kind of like "behold." We're having something unveiled here, something dramatic, something unusual. So we don't use the word very much. I challenge you, later today to use the word "behold" in a regular sentence. Find some way to use the word "behold", it's a great word. "Behold, lunch is ready," something like that.
But it's a greater unveiling, it's an unveiling of this servant of the Lord. He's unveiling a mystery, something that we have not seen before. And he is chosen by the Lord, he was chosen or elect. And the fuller revelation of Scripture is that Jesus was chosen by God the Father for the role as our Messiah, our Savior, before the foundation of the world, before the beginning of time. Isn't that amazing? Think about that. 1 Peter 120, it says, "He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was now revealed in these last times for your sake." So He is chosen and then revealed, so we had the same kind of rhythm here. Chosen but revealed. Again, Revelation 13:8 speaks of Jesus as the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world. So in other words, his death on the cross was in some sense a done deal before God said, "Let there be light." And so, here is the servant of the Lord, "Behold my servant, whom I have chosen." And he is anointed by the Holy Spirit, he says, "I will put my Spirit on Him." He's anointed by the Holy Spirit to do the will of God in ways that no one ever has before, since. The word Messiah or Christ, means Anointed One. He is anointed with the Holy Spirit.
Now the relationship within the Trinity, Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, the relationship between the second and the third person of the Trinity, between Jesus and the Spirit is an infinite mystery. It's something we cannot fully understand but the New Testament presents some amazing insights for us. Though we would think and we should think that God the Son is omnipotent, omnipotent and needs no help to do anything. Yet, it seems he did nothing apart from the expressed will of his Father and apparently also did nothing except by the power of the Holy Spirit. So now if you're going to push me and say, "Could Jesus have done a miracle without the Holy Spirit?" I would say, "The question makes no sense to me, that's not the way the Trinity works." He would not have done anything apart from the power of the Spirit anymore than he would have done anything apart from the will of His Father. There's no "apart from" in the Trinity, that's the perfect unity, the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. But it's by the Spirit that Jesus spoke every word he spoke and it's by the Spirit that He did every miracle he ever did.
And so we have this language here in Acts 10:38, Peter speaking to Cornelius and said, "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him." It was by the Spirit that Jesus was presented to Israel as Messiah. At his own baptism, John the Baptist, baptized him and the Holy Spirit came down as a dove. And it was by the Spirit that Jesus was led into the desert to be tempted by the devil, and it was by the Spirit he was led out of the desert holy after his temptations ready to do his public ministry. Jesus did everything by the power of the Spirit.
The Father’s Delight in the Son
Now, it says also, in verse one, "Here is my servant, whom I have chosen, in whom I delight." Isn't that beautiful? Think about this, meditate on how much the father loves the son, how much the Father delights in the son. It's a sweet meditation. But the "Father loves the son," Jesus said, "and shows him everything he is doing" and he reveals this very powerfully. John Piper wrote a book called "The Pleasures of God," I would commend it to you. It's... He called it a prequel that was written after "Desiring God," but it's basically the pleasure of God in being God. And one of the great pleasures of God the Father is in the perfect reflection or radiance of God's glory through God the Son. The Father loves the Son with an infinitely passionate love and the beautiful thing is our salvation is a subset of that. He loves us in Christ, isn't that amazing? And Jesus could say, "As the Father has loved me, even so I love you." And so that's a powerful love that he has. And so this voice came from heaven at the baptism of Jesus saying, "This is my Son whom I love, with him I am well pleased." Isn't that powerful? The Father delights in the son, he loves him, he's well pleased with him.
And Jesus himself said, in John 8:29, "The one who sent me is with me, he has not left me alone for," listen to this, "I always do what pleases Him." Wouldn't you love to be able to say that to your Heavenly Father? "Father, you know that today throughout the day, at every moment, I always did what pleased you." Well, that's a goal for us in sanctification, but it's a finished fact for Jesus. He always did what pleased the Father. And so, "Here is my servant in whom I delight. He's my chosen one and all my delight is in him."
Jesus Brings Justice to the Nations
And so it says, Jesus "will bring justice to the nations." It says it twice. He's going to bring justice. The nations are languishing, under the boot of injustice now. Those empires that came up out of the sea, those four beasts, they made their way through the world by crushing tyranny and injustice. It's what the human heart does as puppets of Satan, the puppet master. And Satan's the dragon, in Revelation 13, behind the beast coming up out of the sea, he's the puppet master and he makes his satanic human servants do wicked, evil things. He's a murderer, they're murderers. He's a liar, they are liars. And there's this oppression and injustice at the root of all of these human governments and empires.
This injustice. And you just think of the history of it. We can just think about literature, think about famous books like "The Count of Monte Cristo." I think that's an interesting story. You remember how Edmond Dantes was arrested on trumped-up charges by a corrupt official who's trying to protect his own reputation, ships him off to the Chateau d'if on the charges of being a Bonapartes. He's trying to get Napoleon back from exile and back in power again. When he gets there, he meets this godly man, the Abbe Faria who's at the Chateau d'if and has been there for decades under charges of being opposed to Napoleon. So here's this man who's opposed to Napoleon from decades ago while Napoleon was in power, in prison with a man who's opposed to him. And they're both there and they can't get out. So, how many people are languishing in prisons all over the world because of injustice, crimes they didn't commit? Or things that they're accused of that aren't wrong, like being a Christian? Injustice all over the world.
Or think about Ben-Hur, for example. His boyhood friend charges him wrongly with assaulting the governor and just wipes away his whole family and puts him on a slave galley, injustice. Recently, my family, we've watched "To Kill a Mocking Bird." You know, that famous story of racial injustice and a crime that this individual didn't commit. Godly, African-American man charged with a crime that he didn't commit, and evidence is so clear he didn't do it and then he's convicted and found guilty. There is injustice all over the world.
And frankly, we know as Christians, the only answer to this is not that you would be in power instead of that person. No, I hope you know yourself. I hope you know that if you or your group were in power, it would be just about the same thing. Give it a little time and the corruption of your own heart will float to the surface, that's not it. We need a perfectly incorruptible king, amen. And we need one who will speak only words of truth and that is only Jesus, the King of kings. And he is the only hope for the islands, for the distant coastlands, he's the only one that can bring justice to this world. And oh, are we crying for it. We're yearning for it.
The Bruised Reed
Now, as we look at this king, I tell you, verses two and three are some of the sweetest verses in the whole Bible. Some of the sweetest verses in the whole Bible, quoted in Matthew 12. That's the first time, perhaps, you came across them, as the Apostle Matthew ascribed them to Jesus. So I'm just going to go right to this is Jesus, because Matthew gives us the permission to do that, he is describing the servant of the Lord Jesus and it says of him in verse two and three, "He will not shout or cry out in the street or raise his voice in the streets, a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick, he will not snuff out." Now, these are verses that you could read in Matthew 12, and just read right over and not really know what it's saying. It wasn't until I read a Puritan writer named Richard Sibbes, on the bruised reed. And I would commend that to you, you can read it online for free. That I had my eyes opened to what was being depicted here, what is being depicted here is the astonishing gentleness of Jesus in His ministry. The supernatural gentleness of Jesus dealing with broken and frail sinners like you and me, that's what it's talking about. Jesus builds his kingdom differently than all of these empires or emperors of the world, he builds it systematically and gently. Through gentleness, he builds his kingdom.
Now it says that he doesn't shout or quarrel, perhaps, or cry out or raise his voice in the streets. You think about in the 1930s and '40s as the Nazis would be seizing control first of Germany and then of a better part of Europe. I mean, you think about these jack-booted Nazis running through the streets at night and is screaming and you hear, "Schnell, Schnell," and all that, and pounding on doors and it's just loud and boisterous and terrifying. Jesus is not like that, he doesn't build his kingdom by a frothy harangue, by some dictator into a microphone. Or a street proclaimer of communism, let say in St. Petersburg in 1917, something like that, standing up on a wall and whipping people up into revolutionary frenzy. That's not what he does. Or perhaps during the Middle Ages, Herald of the King going out to announce to these down-trodden and crushed peasants that there's yet another raft of taxes that's going to crush them even further. This is not what Jesus does. He doesn't build his kingdom that way, no such harsh cries needed by Jesus or by his messengers.
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news" who what? Proclaim peace. We are peace-loving and we bring a peaceful message. So He doesn't quarrel or cry out or raise his voice in the streets. The kingdom advances quietly, it advances like yeast hidden in a large amount of flour. It just permeates little by little, that's how it advances. And now it comes to this incredible description, "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick, he will not snuff out." I believe the only time that Jesus ever describes himself directly with an adjective, he uses the word "gentle."
Remember in Matthew 11, he says, "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart." Jesus describes himself as gentle or meek and humble in heart, that's His nature. He is a meek or a gentle Savior.
So now we have two questions in front of us, two sets of questions. Question number one: What is a bruised reed and what does it mean that Jesus will not break it? And what is a smoldering wick? And what does it mean that he will not snuff it out? First, the bruised reed. Picture a piece of marsh grass, broad-bladed green grass growing up by the side of a pond. That's how I picture it. And it's growing up tall but fragile, it sways to and fro in the wind. Picture it's just weakness, it's not a mighty oak or a seed or anything like that but it's just a piece of grass, barely noticeable. But this grass beyond its fragility is bruised, okay? In some way, it's become damaged. You could imagine it trampled by a cow or a horse or something like that or perhaps, just creased. You could imagine a crease going, it's hanging down, maybe by a slender, green thread. It's just about, just about severed. Just about ready to fall off. This has got to be a person, a human being going through extreme agony of soul. Going through extreme trial and difficulty, frail and weak, just about to die perhaps, or just about to give up. It might be a Christian who's going through severe tests and trials of various sorts. It might be a non-Christian who just is about ready to give up in this world, it's a human being though. And what does it say about Jesus? He will not break that bruised reed. He is able to take a fragile broken-hearted sinner and bind them back up again, supernaturally. It's amazing, the skill that he has. It's amazing the gentleness he displays with fragile sinners like you and me.
And you think about the little tubules, xylem and phloem. I had to look that up, forgot my biology. But these little tubes that feed, that their circulatory system of the grass and Jesus is able somehow to bind that back up again. So it's not just gentleness, but exceptional skill at putting together a human soul. That's what I think of when I think of a bruised reed, he will not break. Think of the gentleness Jesus displayed in dealing with sinners. Think about that paralyzed man and his friends are digging through the roof and the first thing Jesus sees, their faith. And says, "Take heart son, your sins are forgiven." I don't think he fully realized the significance, the magnitude of the judge of all the Earth saying those words to him. Take heart son, your sins are forgiven. Or to that woman with the flow of blood that just wouldn't stop and she touches him and then Jesus has that interaction with her and says, "Daughter, your faith has head you. Go in peace." Same kind of thing.
I love the encounter in Luke's Gospel where the widow of Nain is burying her only son, and the grief is just immeasurable. And the entire community is grieving with this woman and Jesus comes up and stops the funeral procession, as only he can. Don't you wish you could do what he can do? But he stopped that funeral procession but before doing anything, he goes up to the woman and says, "Don't cry." I mean it's amazing, his first priority is he wants to minister to her, this widow who's losing her only son now and says, "Don't cry." Do you see the gentleness of Jesus, the incredible gentleness? And then he raises his son from the dead. Like I said, don't you wish you could minister like Jesus? But Jesus knows what he's doing. And for us, the promise of final resurrection should be enough. Amen. It's going to come. The Lord will raise him up or her up, it's going to come. Those were just signs of the future resurrection.
But Jesus has astonishing gentleness, he knows how to draw us through amazingly painful trials, things we thought we could never endure. And he knows more about what you can endure than you do, and he'll pull you way beyond what you thought you can handle. And it's not because you can handle it, it's because he will never no never, no never forsake you. And He sustains you and feeds you and the inner man, and he won't let you die. So that's what I think it means, a bruised reed he will not break.
The Smoldering Wick
What does it mean, a smoldering wick he will not snuff out? Well in Hebrew parables, it's about the same thing, but a slightly different image. Again, it's Jesus' gentleness in dealing with weak, frail sinners. Only this time, we're pictured like a flame. You blow a candle out and it's still glowing but lots of smoke, so you got the glowing ember there on the wick. But there's a lot of smoke and it's just a fraction of a second away from going out entirely. And you know when it does, then lots of smoke comes and then it's gone. We're like that, we are not raging bonfires of piety and faith and godliness, that's not who we are. We are fragile flickering flames. And he knows even when you're down to just an ember, a glowing ember, he knows how to nurse you back into a strong raging flame again of piety and godliness and love for God. He knows how to do that, how to breathe on you. Just the slightest too much breath and it's gone, it's out. But Jesus will not snuff out that flickering ember, he knows how to nurse you back to spiritual health.
So the overall message is that Christ is the gentle, skillful physician of the soul. He's able to deal gently with weak and wounded sinners by that amazing, supernaturally, wise, astonishingly gentle power. By that, he builds his empire one broken-hearted sinner at a time. Isn't that beautiful? That's how this empire is getting built by this gentle Savior.
The Irresistible Advance of His Kingdom
And in this, we also see the irresistible advance of the kingdom in verses three and four. Bruised reed he will not break, smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness, He will bring forth justice. Verse four, "He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. And in His law, the islands will put their hope." So the advance of this gentle kingdom is irresistible, it can't be stopped, there's nothing Satan can do to stop it. He will build His Church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it. It's going to advance despite its meekness and gentleness and apparent fragility and weakness. And it says here in this text that he is definitely going to bring forth justice. The thing the islands yearn for, the ends of the earth yearn for, he's going to bring forth this justice. He's going to establish justice on earth. And what does this mean?
Well, I think justice means. That we will be righteous in our relationship with God and with others, first with God. He will justify us through faith in Christ. He's going to bring forth justice between us and God by taking our wickedness and sins on Himself and dying on the cross for us. So we will be justified by faith in Christ. Made right with God, that justice he establishes first. Then he establishes horizontal justice person-to-person, the Golden Rule flourishes in his kingdom. We will do to others what has been done to us. God's been gracious to us, we'll be gracious toward others. It's a different kind of kingdom. And governing forces, governing rulers will use their position humbly like Jesus who is a servant King and it's going to be a just kingdom.
And notice that it says that, "He will not falter or be discouraged." I think that's put in there because this kingdom advances against all odds, against entrenched forces of evil. A number of months ago, I mentioned something I heard from Kevin Deyoung in a sermon, and I had mentioned it here. Sometimes we who are messengers of the Gospel feel like all we've got are spitballs against a reinforced concrete bunker. Do you ever feel that way? It's like, how can this beat that? You look at the world with all of its wickedness and power and big issues are going on and we just have these words that we're believing and preaching and talking about, it doesn't seem powerful enough. And so, there's going to be a temptation for the workers of this kingdom to falter and be discouraged because it seems like it could never happen. But it says here, Jesus "will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law, the islands will put their hope."
The Sovereign Power of Almighty God Guarantees this Success
Now, how do we know that this is going to happen? Well, look at verses five through seven, the sovereign power of almighty God guarantees this success. Look at verse 5-7. "This is what God the Lord says, He who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the Earth, and all that comes out of it, who gives breath to its people and life to those who walk on it. 'I the Lord have called you in righteousness. I will take hold of your hand, I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles. To open eyes that are blind and to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.'" So the reason this kingdom is going to advance and will never fail is because omnipotent God is behind it. Verse five gives God's credentials. "I the Lord who created heaven and earth. I spread them out, I created the earth. And not only that, I give breath to everyone who walks on the Earth. Their hearts are in my hand, their life is in my hand, I can build my kingdom." And so this powerful God is behind this kingdom, He who gives breath to every person who walks on the face of the earth. But now, we're ushered here into the councils of the Trinity. An inter-trinitarian conversation is happening here, the father is speaking to the son. That's the way I read it. So often when good things are said to you in the text, its like, "That's me." Friends, that's not you. Unless you are the light for the Gentiles and a covenant for the people. Okay? It's not you.
So, who's being addressed and who's speaking? The son is being addressed by the Father. The Father is saying to the Son, in verses six and seven, how it's going to go. "I am God. I am the creator of the ends of the Earth." "I have called you in righteousness." He says in verse six. "I will take hold of your right hand. I will keep you and will make you [Jesus] to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles." "That's what I'm going to do for you. I'm going to, through you, open eyes that are blind. I'm going to, through you, free captives from prison. And through you, I'm going to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness." The Father's giving him his marching orders. This command I received from the Father, this is where it comes. Isn't that powerful? Think about that, this inter-trinitarian conversation. Now how is Jesus a covenant for the peoples? Remember at the last supper, Jesus held up the cup and said, "This cup is the blood of the New Covenant in my blood." Jesus's death on the cross is the new covenant, His death in our place is the New Covenant. God the Father made it so. I will make you to be a covenant for the peoples and a light for the Gentiles and you're going to open blind eyes." This is Jesus's marching orders.
II. The Message of the Kingdom Results in Joyful Praise (vs. 8-12)
Now, in verses eight through 12, we see the message of the kingdom resulting in joyful praise. So there is this message that's going out to the ends of the earth and it's going to result in the ends of the earth, praising Him. Now, it begins in verse eight, with the centrality of God. Look at verse eight, "I am the Lord," he says, "That is my name, I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols." So God is exclusive here. He's saying he's the only God, "There is no other God. I am the Lord, I am Yahweh. That is my name. It's my special covenant name and I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols." God makes his claim to exclusivity here against the idols of the nations. He's the only God there is and His glory as God, he will not share with another but he does share it with Jesus. Now, think about that. He will not give His glory to another, but he's going to share it with Jesus. What does that make Jesus other than God? The fierce monotheism of Isaiah rules out the Jehovah's Witness lie. Do you see it? There's no way that Jesus can be a god, but not the God. There's just no way because very plainly, God shares His glory with Jesus. You know what it says in Hebrews 1:3, "The Son Jesus is the radiance of," what, "God's glory."
The radiance of God's glory. And yet, he says here, "I will not give my glory to another." Jesus prayed in John 17:5, "And now Father, glorify me with the glory I had with you," what, "before the world began." "I had a glory with you, we shared it." Glory as what? As God. "Now, give it back. The radiant display of my position as God, give it back. You laid it down in the incarnation. But make me obviously, apparently glorious now that I finished all the work you gave me to do." It's an awesome thing that he's saying there.
The Credibility of the Messenger: A Track Record of Fulfillment
So then the Father establishes his credibility as a messenger, he should be listened to because of his track record. Look what he says in Verse nine, "Behold the former things have taken place and new things I declare before they spring into being. I announce them to you." So what's he saying there? Fulfilled prophecy. "I have a good track record of predicting the future and making it happen. Been doing it for centuries. I predicted the flood to Noah. What happened? Flood. I predicted that a childless couple, Abram and Sarai would have a son and they did. And not only that, I predicted that Abraham through Him, he would have descendants as numerous as the stars of the sky and as sandy as the seashore, and it happened." And he predicted that his descendants would be enslaved in a country not their own for 400 years, and it happened. And he said, he would punish that nation and bring them out powerfully to live in this place in the Promise Land, and it happened. He has an incredible track record of predicting the future, making it happen.
Even in the book of Isaiah, he predicts that the Assyrians will invade and go right up to the neck of Judah in Jerusalem, but not conquer the city of Jerusalem. He actually said very specifically, they wouldn't enter the city, or even shoot an arrow there. He didn't have time. They were all dead. God, sovereignly predicted what would happen and made it happen. Now, He's predicting new things. Now, I don't think the new thing is the Babylonian exile, and the recovery. That's part of it, but that's small potatoes. Why do I say that? Because the real thing is the suffering servant, and the salvation that Jesus brings to the ends of the earth. He said, "I'm going to make it happen. I'm going to predict this new thing that's happening, how all we like sheep have gone astray and each of us has turned to his own way." I'm going to tell you all about that. "He was pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities." I'm going to tell you new things you haven't heard before. And they're going to happen. So that's his track record. God should be listened to because he knows the end.
The Joyful Response to the Message
And all of this results in joyful praise. "Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the ends of the earth. You who go down to the sea and all that is in it. You islands and all who live in them. Let the desert and its towns raise their voices, let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the mountain tops. Let them give glory to the Lord and proclaim His praise in the islands." You know the result of all of this, of all of this gentle Savior, building a kingdom, advancing is praise, it's worship. When we were singing, when Daniel was leading us and we're singing, that's what God was getting after. And more beyond that, when you in your quiet time tomorrow, when you kneel down and you, and then you sing or you just say, "God, thank you for saving me I worship you and I praise you," just... Or middle of the day, that's what God was doing, turning you from an idolater to a worshipper of the living and true God.
And so in Verses 10-12, he's saying, "Sing to the Lord," what does he call it, "a new song." We hear about that in the book of Revelation. Let's sing a new song celebrating salvation through Jesus, His praise from the ends of the Earth. And he says, "You who go down to the sea," sailors, let the sailors, the ones that go down in boats and ships on the sea, let them go to distant places, that's the only way you can reach the islands. So let them get on boats and let them go to those distant islands, and let them tell of this God and His suffering servant. And let the distant islands hear of this gospel and let them give forth praise to Almighty God. That's what it's saying. Verse 11 is so sweet, "Let the desert and its towns raise their voices, let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice." Well, what's that? Well, that's what Bible search software is for. Kedar.
Alright, so type it in. And up comes Genesis 25:13, the first born son of Ishmael. Ishmael, you remember Ishmael, the other son of Abraham, the one by Hagar, the slave, talked about her... About them in the book of Galatians, "Get rid of the slave woman and her son, for the slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with the free woman’s son." and all that. Yeah, but when he was cast out remember, Abraham's heart went after his son. And he prayed, "Oh, that you would protect Ishmael and watch over and bless him." God heard his prayer and allowed him to thrive, and multiply and have 12 sons and they are the desert dwelling Arabs. The sons of Ishmael living in the desert, Kedar is their first born. And there will be representatives of Kedar at the throne of grace in heaven, Amen. There will be Ismael-ites through faith in Jesus Christ, not by Islam, Islam's a lie. But by repentance and faith in Christ, they will be there and they will worship Jesus Christ. Isn't that awesome? And let it happen when God says, "Let the settlements of Kedar rejoice." It's like him saying, what, "Let there be light." And there's nothing that can stop it. By His sovereign grace, some of Ishmael's descendants will come to faith in Christ. There'll be a representative there.
Same thing with Sela, which is connected to Edom, ever heard of Edom? Again, rejected like Ishmael. Rejected. And yet, some of his descendants will be there around the throne worshipping Christ. It's an incredible thing, God is able to step into emptiness and brokenness and create something where there was nothing before.
III. The Zeal of the Warrior God Rescues His Captive People (vs. 13-17)
Now, in verses 13-17, the zeal of the warrior God moves out to rescue his captive people. One of the biggest problems we have in life, the things we struggle, if the God of the Bible, the God of Isaiah 40 is so powerful, why doesn't he do X?" Have you ever struggled with that? "If God is so powerful, why won't he heal my husband or my wife or my child? If God's so powerful, why won't he save my mother? Why won't he save my co-worker? If God is so powerful, why do things like ISIS happen with little children. Damming the name of Christ... Christians getting beheaded. Why does that happen if God is so powerful? Why is God silent? And we struggle with that. Well, God addresses his silence here, look at verses 13 through 15. It says there, "The Lord will march out like a mighty man. Like a warrior, he will stir up his zeal. With a shout, He will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies." Verse 14, "For a long time, I have kept silent. I've been quiet and held myself back." See that? That's the silence of God, he's holding Himself back. "But now like a woman in child birth, I cry out, I gasp and pant. I will lay waste the mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation, I will turn rivers into islands and dry up the pools." So in the middle of verse 14, we have the silent God waiting a long time. Why does he do it?
Well, he says in Second Peter, he does it to give time for repentance. He allows people time to repent, he also does it because he's got a fullness of time, he's got his perfect time when he's going to move out. Then he uses two really amazing images to describe himself. A mighty warrior going forth to battle, which he's going to win, and a pregnant woman about to give birth crying out in her labor pains. So I meditated on this, this is what you get to do in Isaiah. Interesting images. How do they relate? Noise and victory, that's how I put them together. Mighty warrior with a battle cry, going out and wins the battle. The woman writhing in pain and crying out giving birth to the healthy baby. So up to this point, God's been quiet and nothing it seems is going on. But he's going to move and when God moves, suddenly things happen. So do not wonder about it, do not lament. Pray, be patient, wait on God for his timing but there'll come a time when He will move out like a warrior.
Now, isn't it amazing? We have these different images. Now, I'm not talking about the pregnant woman now, the images of the bruised reed and the smoldering wick plus a mighty warrior crying out in battle and crushing His enemies. How do you put that together? That's Jesus' Lion and Lamb, do you see that? He is very tender-hearted to his children, but he is terrifying to His enemies. And when He goes out like a warrior he cries out, and he wins. And he will go out, and He will defend his people. He will rescue them, Verse 16, "I will lead blind by ways they have not known along unfamiliar paths, I will guide them. I will turn the darkness into light before them, and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do, I will not forsake them." This is Jesus saying he's going to save us. He's going to bring us along the path that leads to heaven. Now, the immediate context could be the exiles going back to Jerusalem and that's fine. But again, small potatoes compared to a multitude from every nation on a road that leads to eternal life in heaven. He's going to lead the blind by these roads and he's going to rescue the captives and He will never leave us nor will He forsake us. How sweet is that?
And yet, verse 17, they are still going to be some who trust in idols. Who say to images, "You are gods." They will be turned back in utter shame. There's a warning to any who will not repent and believe in this great Jesus the Savior, that if you'd cling to idols, you will be turned back in utter shame.
IV. The Shameful Condition of God’s Sinful People (vs. 18-25)
Now, the final section of this, we'll deal with quickly and then get to application. The shameful condition of God's sinful people. So the chapter ends with a powerful explanation of why God's chosen people are going to be in exile to begin with. Why are they even going? Why is Israel going to get carted off by the Babylonians? Now, God must do this because it's going to be easy to misunderstand. People are going to think that the reason that happened was that God lost in battle to the Babylonian gods, Tammuz, or Bel or Nebo, or whatever their gods were. That is not the case.
God actually says in Deuteronomy, he's afraid of people thinking that…That's an interesting thing, God afraid of people coming to misunderstandings. So He sends His prophets, ahead of time to say what he's going to do. They're going... Also the Jews are going to misunderstand and say, "We're the oppressed, we're the crushed, we're the ones that are being beaten down unjustly," and all that. It's not unjust. They're getting punished for their sins, and that's what he's dealing with here. Look at the verses, verse 18 and following. "Hear, you deaf. Look, you blind and see." So call to the blind and the deaf. Verse 19, "Who is blind but my servant and deaf like the messenger I send. Who is blind, like the one committed to me. Blind like the servant of the Lord." Verse 20, "You have seen many things, but you pay no attention, your ears are open, but you hear nothing." This is language that Isaiah consistently uses for the idolatrous Jews. Be ever-hearing, but never understanding. Be ever seeing, but never perceiving. Make their eyes closed and their ears dull, so that they cannot understand.
So the Jews should have been God serving in the world, but they're blind. And who is blind like them? Their blindness was unlike anyone else's blindness. Now, here's the thing, the whole world was blind. How then was the blindness of the Jews worse? Well, look at verse 21, "It pleased the Lord for the sake of His righteousness to make his law great and glorious, glorious means bright and shining." Let's say you have two blind men, one of them is in a pitch-black cave and the other one's in a brilliantly lit room. Which of the two has a more obvious clear blindness? Isn't it the one in the brightly lit room? The one in the dark cave, it's not so clear the nature of his blindness 'cause there's no light to see. And so here, the Jews surrounded by the brilliance of God's Word, the brilliance of his law shining and radiant and they couldn't see it. They couldn't see the glory of God in the writings of Moses and the prophets.
Psalm 19, "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul, the statutes of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart." Listen to this, "The commands of the lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes." They should have been able to see the glory of God in the commandments of God. But they couldn't, they're blind. So who's blind, like Israel and deaf like the messenger I send. And so because of that, they're going to be plundered for their sins.
The Plundering of Jacob God's Just Punishment for Sin
Verses 22 through 25, "This is a people, plundered and looted all them trapped in pits or hidden away in prisons. They've become plunder with no one to rescue them. They've been made loot with no one to say 'send them back.'" That's what's going to happen to the Jews. "Which of you will listen to this or pay attention in time to come? Who handed Jacob over to become loot and Israel to the plunderers?" Who did this? God has not along for the ride, God actually sent the Babylonians. He sent them for they would not follow his ways, they did not obey His law, so He poured out on them His burning anger, the violence of war, it enveloped them in flames yet they did not understand it, it consumed them but they did not take it to heart.
I wonder if even today, the Jews that go down to the wailing wall and they bow and pray before the wailing wall, do they take to heart and understand why that building was destroyed? Do they understand what God is saying here in Isaiah 42? It's because of the sins of the nation, the idolatry of the nation that all of this happened.
Application. Well, central application of this has got to be this: "Come to me, all you who are wary and burdened and I'll give you rest." Come to Christ, trust in this gentle Savior. Do you feel like this, sometimes, do you feel like a bruised reed, smoldering wick? Do you feel like you're at the end of your rope? You might be lost, you might be a non-Christian, you might be on the outside, but you're like, "How can I get my sins forgiven?" Come to Christ, He's gracious and merciful and will forgive sins, His blood shed on the cross, His resurrection on the third day, everything you need for salvation as a sinner. Everything.
And then once you've come to Christ, he's going to bring you through severe trials. We're going to talk about it, God willing, next week. He's going to bring you through the fire and the water, but He will never leave you or forsake you. What are you going through? It's amazing the number of people in our church that are struggling with cancer right now, it's amazing to me. And struggling, well. For the glory of God going through severe trials. Maybe you feel bruised by all of this, bruised reed. Maybe you're like, "I don't want any more medical procedures to me, no more." And you're feeling bruised, even it might be literally bruised by yet another attempt to get blood out of your right arm or your left arm. You're just at the end of it. Or maybe you're just beaten and down-trodden by the trials you're going through. Understand verse two and three, "A bruised reed, He will not break, he will bind you up." Ultimately, set your heart... Your hope, your heart on the resurrection and the glory to be given to you in Christ returns and that's where he's going to set everything right. In the meantime, He will sustain you and strengthen you.
Secondly, friends at the horizontal level, can we not be gentle with each other? Can we not be arrogant, self-righteous sinners who act like we would never sin like this person? Can we not remember how much God's forgiven us, can we not be mindful of the 10,000 talents of forgiveness you've gotten and not choke someone else who owes you 100 Denarius? Let me speak plainly. Can we not be as forgiving to one another as God has been forgiving to us? And then when God brings broken-hearted people into our lives, can we not set aside our business and just sit down and pour out love, and prayer, and ministry on one another? Can we not draw together and just look around and say, "What's going on in this person's life, or that person's life? We're going to watch over one another in brotherly love." We've got to be like this, we've got to be like Christ. A bruised reed He will not break, I'm not going to break it either. A smoldering wick he'll not snuff out. I want to learn how to kindle someone's heart back into flame in Christ. I want to be like that. I think we need to be a community like that. And you need to pray for your elders to be good shepherds like that. That's a special skill that the Lord needs to increase in us so that we can shepherd people with this kind of gentleness.
Can I commend to you to go online and look up Richard Sibbes, S-I-B-B-E-S, Bruised Reed, and read it. It's unbelievably encouraging. It will bless you. Worship Jesus, this chapter says to sing to him, from the ends of the earth. Guys, do you realize that's us? We are the ends of the earth when it comes to Jerusalem. What do you think, if you could have described North Carolina to someone who lived in Jerusalem in the first century, they'd say, "Ends of the Earth." Only way to get there is going down to the sea in a boat. We're it, we're the ends of the earth. Let's praise him, Amen. Let's sing to him a new song. When Daniel has us get up to worship, let's worship like never before next week. Okay, how was that sound? Good? Amen. Energy, passion. Let's sing to him a new song like we've been saved because we have been. Let's praise Him. And let's not underestimate how much power Christ exerts every day as a mighty warrior to destroy His enemies. He is so gentle with us but he is with a shout, going to go out and destroy His enemies. So let's not wonder why God's silent and waiting, and all that. Let's know the time will come, we'll hear Christ shout in the heavens. And he'll come down to Earth.
And then finally, let's be excited about unreached people group ministry. Today, let's say especially for the settlements of Kedar. Look up Ishmael-ite descendants, Arab... Go online, joshuaproject.net or some other place and find some Arab settlement that hasn't heard, some Bedouin tribe and pray in light of Isaiah 42. Let the settlements of Kedar rejoice, and pray that that ends of the earth will hear the gospel and believe. Close with me in prayer.