Christ Unveiled as Restorer for Israel and Light for the Nations (Isaiah Sermon 57 of 81)
November 30, 2014 | Andrew Davis
True Israel, Missions, The Person of Christ, Prophecy
Isaiah 49: One of the Greatest Missionary Chapters
So we come to Isaiah 49, and we come to one of the greatest missionary chapters in the Bible, for it takes us into the secret counsels of Almighty God, the Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the discussion that they have, the Father and the Son have had for the extension of the glory of God to the ends of the earth. That's a missionary theme. Here, God the Father tells the Son that it's not enough glory for him just to save the Jews. We're going to talk about that. Now, that mission is unspeakably glorious. The restoration of the Jewish nation, unspeakably glorious, unspeakably difficult, but it is given to Jesus to do it, and I praise God for that, but it's not enough. It's insufficient glory. God has commanded Jesus Christ also be the light for the Gentiles, that He may bring God's salvation to every tribe and language and people and nation. So at present, the glory of Jesus is indescribable, He sits at the right hand of Almighty God in radiant glory and the kingdom is advancing, but I say to you that his glory is insufficient at present time. It's not enough. And I yearn to just kindle inside my heart and your hearts a desire for greater glory for Jesus. Amen?
You want to see more glory for Him. You want to revere Him more yourself than you ever have before. And you want to see more people brought into the kingdom. And so, my desire is to do that through Isaiah 49, to say, "O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together." Meditate on that, what can we do to God to make him bigger? Answer, nothing. He's already infinite, but let us magnify Him together, because he is too small in our own hearts, He's too small in this church, He's too small in our community, in our nation, and in our world. And so we want to see His glory extended, we want to see more and more glory coming. This chapter also brings us face-to-face, as a sub-theme, to the constant disappointment that laborers will have concerning the Kingdom of God, about that very smallness. The fact that we look at it, and it just seems so disappointing, and so discouraging. And to face that discouragement head-on, as I think Jesus does in this text, and to say, "Yes. At present, it's small. It seems to be insufficient, but God is at work and the end will be glorious, and that we have to face that.
Now, we could say, like it says in verse 4, "I have labored to no purpose, I have spent my strength in vain, and for nothing." We're going to feel that. Yet, the reward is in God's hand, and it's going to come. And so, I just meditated much on this "too small" theme, "too small." It is too small a thing for Christ to save the Jews alone. Later in the text, Zion is going to say that the physical city of Jerusalem is too small for all the people that are coming, it's too small for all the work that God is doing to the ends of the earth. Amen? That earthly Jerusalem is too small, God has something bigger planned, a new Jerusalem. And we're going to talk about all of that. So, enough introduction, we have 26 verses to get through. That's a minute and 41 seconds per verse, alright? So let's go, and you're shaking your head, but I'm going to do it, I promise. We're going to get through all 26 verses, so buckle your seat belts. Here we go.
I. Christ Unveiled as God’s Salvation to the Ends of the Earth (vs. 1-7)
In verses 1-7, Christ is unveiled as God's salvation to the ends of the earth. We come immediately face-to-face in this chapter with the servant of the Lord, the servant of Yahweh. This is the second servant song after Isaiah 42, the first, this is the second. The question immediately comes to us, who is this individual? Just like the Ethiopian eunuch asked it of Isaiah 53, "Who is this Chapter talking about? Who is the servant of the Lord?" Scholars have given different answers. Some say it's Isaiah himself, but it doesn't fit, it just goes beyond anything that Isaiah would claim for himself. The most common alternate explanation is that the servant is Israel. It says it right in the verse 3. We'll talk about that, but that this is the nation of Israel and the nation of Israel is meant to be a light for the Gentiles. The problem with that theory is verse 6, because it says, "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept." How can Israel save Israel? How can Israel save Jacob? It doesn't make... It doesn't line up. There's someone else that it's talking about here, and I believe it's talking about Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ, son of Mary, the Son of God.
This is Jesus talking, and actually we get to hear him speak, and we get to hear the Father speak to him right in this text. So, this is an amazing text. How do I know that? Again, it's that idea of the "light for the Gentiles." After Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, shortly thereafter He was taken by Joseph and Mary to the temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised according to the Law of Moses. While he was there, He met a man named Simeon. Now, Simeon was a prophet, he was a Godly man, and he was waiting, it says, for the consolation of Israel, that means he was waiting for the Messiah. And it seems to have been revealed to him that he would not die before seeing him. That's a special revelation, isn't it? "The Messiah will come in your lifetime, just wait for him." And so, he was waiting. He thought the temple, the area would be a good place to wait, and Joseph and Mary bring Jesus, and he is moved by the Spirit, and he comes over and he looks at this baby, he takes him in his arms, and he praises God, saying, "My eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people. A light of revelation for the Gentiles and glory for your people, Israel."
So, he's paraphrasing Isaiah 49:6. Jesus is the "light for the Gentiles." And then in Acts 13, Paul and Barnabas in the Synagogue... They're in Pisidian Antioch explaining why they're about to go preach the Gospel to the Gentiles, which the Jews are very angry about, explaining that, quote this chapter exactly. In Acts 13:47, "For this is what the Lord has commanded us." Very interesting word, 'us.' "I have made you, [singular] a light for the Gentiles that you, singular, may bring salvation to the ends of the earth."
So, they believe that Jesus is the light for the Gentiles that brings the salvation into it. They're not it. Paul and Barnabas weren't it. But the command from God the Father to God the Son, that that was his mission, became their mission. And so, God has commanded us to make sure that Jesus is the light for the Gentiles, isn't that awesome? That's a missions verse right there. And so, that's why I believe we're talking about Jesus here.
The Servant of the Lord Calls to the Nations
Now, if this is Jesus, then right away, we have Him speaking to the nations. Verse 1, "Listen to me, you islands. Hear this, you distant nations. Before I was born, the Lord called me from my birth, He has made mention of my name." So here in the words of Isaiah, the Prophet, 7 centuries before Jesus was born, we have Jesus addressing the world. "Hear this, you nations, you distant islands. I have something to say to you all." So this is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, talking to us, the human race. That's awesome. In verse 1, "Listen to me you islands, hear this you distant nations."
He is calling to the distant nations, the farthest, remotest people groups on the face of the earth, the Inuit people up in the Arctic region of Alaska and Canada. The cave dwellers, the semi-nomadic people in Papua New Guinea. He's calling to them, to listen to him. Blond-haired descendants of the Vikings who live in Norway, and in modern cities in Norway, He's calling to them. The tall Dinka people in Africa, the tallest... Genetically, the tallest people on the face of the earth. All these distant lands are summoned by Jesus Christ, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. He's summoning them to listen to him. And He wants them to know of his origin, where He came from. It was by the call of the Father that He was born. From before He was even born, the Father called Him and chose Him and made mention of his name.
And so, in 1 Peter 1:19-20, this is an encouraging word to us as Christians, we were redeemed. You know, you were redeemed, you were bought out of sin, out of slavery, you were redeemed. "With the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake." So Jesus is the pre-existent one, the called one, The Chosen One, who is chosen by God the Father before God said, "Let there be light," to be the redeemer for the nations.
The Servant of the Lord Concealed and Prepared
Now in Verse 2, the servant of the Lord is concealed and prepared. There's a concealing language here in Verse 2. "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of His hand He hid me." He is the Father, He, God, God the Father made me a certain way. He shaped me, he prepared me, he got me ready. He made me... "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me." There's that hiding language. "He made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver." So there are two different... Hiding, concealing. Jesus was concealed in the mind of God. He was concealed in the purposes of God. And then little by little over redemptive history, he started to pay out more and more of the Jesus truth, that Christ was coming. He's paying out more and more through the prophets.
Through the curse on the serpent, "The seed of woman is going to crush your head." And then little by little, he's paying out more and more truth about the coming Savior. I think about, for example, Balaam, that prophet for hire, remember him? Interesting character. But he's there, and he's there supposedly to curse Israel, but instead he blesses them, and in the middle of it he gives a prophecy about Jesus. And in Numbers 24:17, he says, "I see him, but not now. I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob. A scepter will arise out of Israel." So, he's distant, I see him, it's just murky, it's far away, but I... He's coming, though. So, he was concealed in the mind of God, and then paid out a little at a time. Isaiah gives us some of the biggest "paying out" that happened about Jesus before he was born. And then he was concealed in the incarnation, and yet revealed. Amazingly, he's both concealed and revealed. The incarnation was a form of concealing. And Charles Wesley's Christmas hymn, Hark! The Herald Angels Sing, one of the verses says this, "Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail, the incarnate deity." So, "Veiled in flesh." He's hidden in flesh.
So you look at him, and He doesn't look like God. And it's actually a stumbling block, because he's just so ordinary in every other way. He's born in the normal way. He ate food, slept, you know, his hair grew, his fingernails, got tired, slept, just normal, normal. And so, we're going to come to it, God willing, Isaiah 53:2. "He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him." There was nothing... You looked at him, you didn't see God in the flesh, you didn't see that. Now on the Mount of Transfiguration, he paid out some of that glory, remember? He took Peter, James, and John with Him up the mountain, and then took the dimmer switch... Not to 100%, alright? No one could see that and live. But His clothes became radiant as light, and His face shone like the sun, and they were just overwhelmed. And a cloud came, and "This is my son." And this revelation of the glory of Jesus, that He had laid, "Mild he lays his glory by." He laid His glory by. And so, He's veiled, He's concealed. He was concealed, especially, at the cross. Don't you see it?
As you look at the cross, it's like, "How could this be God? How could God die?" It just made no sense. It was a stumbling block to people. And so He was concealed at the cross, and He was concealed after His glorious resurrection. You would say, "You know, I would have appeared to everyone." I bet you would have. Our ways are not His ways, His ways are better than our ways. And so instead, He gives the world people like you and me as witnesses. That's a concealing. So he sends missionaries to villages and they're just ordinary people, they're sinners like anyone else, and they come with a message. That's a concealing, but also a revealing. And that's the thing.
And Jesus, there's weapon language used here. He made his... "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. I was a polished arrow hidden in His quiver." That's fighting language, that's weapon language. Jesus is a weapon from God the Father, and against what? Against evil, against the contagion of evil that has encroached in His beautiful universe. And he unleashed Jesus to destroy the evil. And what he does with the elect, the sharpened sword is like a scalpel, a surgeon's scalpel, cutting out the tumor of sin out of your heart, saving your soul. His word is like a sharp double-edged sword, it's able to penetrate and convict and to bring healing. And so, He is the physician who uses His mouth to heal you from sin. But not so with His enemies. The second coming of Christ, Revelation 19, He comes with the armies of heaven, and there's a sword coming out of His mouth, and He will slay the nations, though... All His enemies, all the rebels who would not bow the knee to Him. He will overcome them with the breath of his mouth. And so, "He made my mouth like a sharpened sword," Jesus says, "And in the shadow of His hand, he hid me."
The Servant of the Lord Is Called “Israel”
And then, in Verse 3, comes this challenging Verse. He calls him Israel. Now, you told us this is Jesus, how can we call him Israel? Well, I already said it can't be Israel in verse 6, so we've got to find some way to harmonize this thing. It's easier, I think, to understand how God the Father would call Jesus "Israel" than to understand how Israel could save Israel. So, I think Jesus is called Israel here in verse 3. Why? Well, Israel was... Jesus was everything Israel was supposed to be, perfected, personified. He was what the Son of God should have been on Earth. Remember how Moses said to Pharaoh, "Say to Pharaoh, 'this is what the Lord says, Israel is my first-born son.'" Did you hear that? Well, no, not really. Actually, Jesus is his first-born, over all creation. He's the only begotten. But in some way, there's a connection between Jesus and Israel, the people of God, such an intimate connection. And so, in Hosea 11:1, the prophet there says, "When Israel was a child, I loved him. And out of Egypt, I called my Son." Then Matthew, in Chapter 2, ascribes it directly to Jesus, that exact quote, " Out of Egypt, I called my son."
So He's identified in Matthew 2 as Israel, in some way. So, how does that work? Jesus is the perfection of what the people of God should have been. He perfectly obeyed God, He perfectly obeyed the laws of Moses. He was the perfection of what Israel should have been, He radiated the glory of God in this world. And now in the church, believers, etcetera, through the Spirit, we are the body of Christ, He's the head. There's this intimate connection. And so, we are called by His name, and He by ours. It's like a beautiful marriage in that way. And so, I think that's the way I understand this word, Israel.
The Servant of the Lord Apparently Discouraged
Now, another challenging verse, in verse 4. If this is Jesus, how do we hear verse 4? How do we understand Jesus saying, "But I said, I labored to no purpose, I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing"? That's a head-scratcher. So maybe you say, "Wait a minute, we're going to kick out of the Jesus interpretation, just for that part, and then back in in the rest of the verse." Well, we really can't do that, so I'm sticking to it and saying Jesus, in some way, could say this. That's the way I would say it.
There seemed to be evidence of failure connected with Jesus. Do you not see it? I mean, think of this, Jesus nailed to the cross, the end of the only sinless life there's ever been on Earth. The only perfect preaching ministry there's ever been, the only perfect river of miracles there's ever been displayed. Abundant evidence of the power of God. And he's calling people, "Come unto me, and be saved." He's calling to them. At the end of all of that nailed to the cross, He's got one Apostle, John. He's got his mother, she's going to go wherever He goes. And some friends of the family who were disciples, and that's it. Wouldn't it have seemed like he could say these words at that moment? "I have labored to no purpose. I've not saved Israel. I've not saved Jacob. I've not... " You know, you could say that. Now, I think there's language like that. It was tempting to look at that moment as a failure. But understand, the verse doesn't stop there. It doesn't stop there. "Yet," He says, "What is due me is in the Lord's hands, and my reward is with my God." So, "Yeah, I understand that thought. I know you might think this whole thing was a failure, but it's not."
Because as he died, you remember, he said, "Father into your hands I commit my Spirit."And with that, he breathed His last... Can I just kind of expand that and just thematically say, Father, into your hands, I commit my ministry. Into your hands I commit this death on the cross. Now do something with this. And the father says to the son, oh, I will. You sit at my right hand and you watch what I will do with this. You did everything I told you to do. You can't measure, it's impossible to conceive of the zeal the father has to do something with Jesus' death. You didn't labor for nothing. Your reward is in my hand, and I will pay it out to you over 20 plus centuries of people coming to faith and worshipping you as God for what you did. And so, there is a zeal. I want you to feel it in your heart. I have a hard time sometimes not getting emotional at this moment. I taught this in Bible studies, and at this moment I start to choke up and I was like, "Can I even conceive of how committed the father is to make sure the son gets what he deserves?"
"Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a foot stool for your feet," he says. This is the zeal of the father has. And the zeal, the Holy Spirit has. That's his special office in the world to come to you individually and make you worship Jesus. Thank God the Holy Spirit, he did that for you, if you're a Christian today.
It's incredible to me how often I, as a pastor and I hear stories, how often we come face-to-face with discouragement in ministry. It happens a lot. It happens a lot. You're like, wow, I mean, you know, it seems like things are going well. It's like, look... It's... You know, I think the church, not just FBC but the church should be bigger, better, brighter more awesome, more obedient, more, more, more, more of everything if Jesus really was a son of God. Don't you see that? Don't you feel that? And I'm not the only one that's felt that. Martin Luther, I've told this story before, stopped preaching for 18 months in Wittenberg. He was a professor, so he wasn't a pastor, he didn't have to preach. He's like, "I'm not going to preach to you people anymore, because my preaching doesn't seem to do anything. You're still the same drunk Germans you were before the Reformation." He didn't say that, but it was kind of like that. You're the same, you were. Nothing's happening. I'm done. I'm going to go back to be a professor with my books and we're finished. And Melanchthon and other friends did everything they could, and he was intractable for over a year, a year-and-a-half. Finally he got back into preaching. Discouragement. I've labored to no purpose, I've spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
You know the story of missionaries like Adoniram Judson that dug his own grave and waited for God to strike him dead, because his wife is dead, his child was dead, and he had no converts after seven years. It's like, "Did I leave Salem Massachusetts? Did I get on that boat for this?" What are you doing God? I don't understand this. Why, after all this time, is there so little to show? And yet, when he died, a government survey done by the Burmese government showed 210,000 Burmese claiming to be Christians, 210,000 by the end of his life. Labor to no purpose. Pastors can feel that way as they look at the church. Parents can feel that way as they look at their families. College students can feel that way as they try to be light shining in a dark place at their fraternity, their sorority, trying to reach a roommate and everything seems for nothing.
You do some Bible studies, and the person... People don't come to Christ. It's so easy to face, but don't stop in the middle of the Verse. Yet, what is due me is in the Lord's hand, and my reward is with my God." I trust you O Lord, I want to be faithful and leave the rest to you.
The Servant of the Lord Prepared to Restore Israel
Verse 5, the servant of the Lord prepared to restore Israel. "And now the Lord says, He who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring back Jacob to himself, and gather Israel to himself, for I'm honored in the eyes of the Lord and my God has been my strength." Alright, so the Lord says this to me. He says, He formed me in the womb, He knit me together in Mary's womb, and my mother's womb gave me a human body for the purpose of restoring Israel. If you know anything or about redemptive history, about the Bible, that is a big job. Getting the Jews at last to turn away from idolatry, to turn away from sin, and wholeheartedly to worship Yahweh, that's Jesus' special glory. That's what he was sent in the world to do, and that was the focus, the narrow focus of his mission on earth for three years.
You remember he went up to Syrophoenicia area, up there and there's this woman coming and asked for a miracle and he didn't even answer, he just walked right by, odd moment. And she finally, I think... I think she literally stood right in front. You know, a mother's love. We'll get to that later in the text, but a mother's love, like, do not ignore me, my child needs healing. So he says, "It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to their dogs." "Yes Lord," she said, "but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master's table." Do you remember that? But what did he say before that? "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." But by the time of His resurrection, that was done to the Jew first, what? And also to the Gentile. He sends out His Apostles to the ends of the Earth. And so, he says, "Look, that was the first mission, but now, the mission is to the ends of the earth." And friends, please don't go into those theological systems that tell you there was a plan A and that failed, now we're in a plan B, and the church is God's plan B. Have you ever heard that before? Some of you have, it's outrageous and ridiculous. God doesn't have a Plan B, God doesn't need a plan B.
He knows exactly what he's doing. And so, to the Jew first and now the time has come and the Gospel gets unleashed to the ends of the earth.
The Servant’s Mission to the Ends of the Earth
Look at Verses 6-7, he says, "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I've kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth. This is what the Lord says, the redeemer and a holy one of Israel, to him who is despised, and abhorred by the nation to the servant of rulers, kings will see you and rise up. Princes will see you and bow down. Because of the Lord, who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you." So this is awesome, this is an inter-trinitarian conversation. Father speaking to the Son. And He says, it's too small a thing, literally too light a thing in the Hebrew. Too light. It's too lightweight for you to only do that. Now, the Hebrew word for glory is Kavod, it's related to massiveness, a massive weight of the glory of God. He says, "Therefore, it's insufficient glory for you only to save the Jews. That's too light for you."
He is also the light for the Gentiles to bring God's salvation to the ends of the Earth. The people walking in darkness will see that eternal life, light. They will see the glory of God. And the mission will be successful, isn't that awesome? We will succeed. We're on the winning team. Kings will see and they will rise up out of their thrones like the king of Nineveh. Remember when he got up out of his throne, took off his royal robes and got... Put on sack cloth and abased himself before God? The kings are going to see you and get up out of their thrones and princes are going to see, and they're going to bow down to you.
We'll see this again in Isaiah 52:15, where it says, "so will He sprinkle many nations" with His blood, sprinkle them "and kings will shut their mouths because of him. For what they were not told, they will see, and what they have not heard, they will understand." So this Gospel is going to go out to Kings in Africa, kings in Europe, kings in Asia, they're going to hear these things, and many of them are going to get saved.
II. God’s Day of Salvation for the Exiles (vs. 8-13)
Now Verses 8-13, God's day of salvation for the exiles. We come in Verse 8 to God's day of salvation. Look at Verse 8, "This is what the Lord says, 'In the time of my favor, I will answer you, and in the day of salvation, I will help you. I will keep you and I will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and reassign its desolate inheritances." Well, Paul quotes this Verse, Isaiah 49:8, in 2 Corinthian 6:1-2, to the Gentile believers in Corinth. This is what he says, "As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain." What he's saying is the Gospel's come to your town, I'm pleading with you that it would not have come in vain. And then he says in 2 Corinthian 6:2, "for he says, 'in the time of my favor, I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.' I tell you, now is the time of God's favor. Today, now is the day of salvation."
So this gives a sense of urgency to all of this. Do you not see it? I think about this Verse every time I witness. And I get to the end of a time in which I'm saying, God sent his son into the world. He lived a sinless life, perfectly obeyed the laws of God, died an atoning death in our place on the cross. Rose from the dead, physically on the third day and appeared to eye witnesses, and he stands now ready to save anyone who repents and believes in him. Will you believe in Him? Will you trust in him? If that individual says, "You know, the things you're saying make a lot of sense. I'm going to think about that. I'm going to think about that." As a matter of fact, I actually had one individual tell me that they're planning to become a Christian right before they died. They're going to live a fun life, they're going to do what they want to do, the money, the different things. They got all that planned out, all of that, they got the whole life planned out and then right before they die, they're going to become a Christian. I said, "Well, that's... There's a lot of things wrong with that, but you know, how do you know when you're going to die?" You have someone right now that God sent to sit next to you on this plane and tell you about Jesus. You may never get another chance. More than that, you find the things I'm saying compelling and you feel yourself pulled, you may never feel that again. Today is the day of salvation.
Now, one last detail look at the Isaiah text, alright, this is interesting. "This is what the Lord says." We've been following that, it's God the Father who's he saying it to? To Jesus. So we got to continue that, he's saying this to Jesus, not to sinners, he's saying it to Jesus. "In the time of my favor, I will answer you" Jesus. And "in the day of salvation, I will help you." I will keep you Jesus and I will make you Jesus to be a covenant for the people. To restore the land and reassign its desolate inheritances. Well, why is that important? Well, here's the thing, in 2 Corinthian 6, it's applied to the sinners. So if you hear God speaking to you, call on him and then in the day of salvation he'll hear you. No, no, in the day of salvation, God the Father will hear the son, call to the son, and he's your mediator and he'll go with your name to the Father and the Father will accept you. That's powerful.
He's not going to listen to you, apart from Jesus, He's not going to circumvent Jesus. Go to Jesus, call on Jesus' name, and He will save you. So just stop for a minute. Are you saved? Have you trusted in Christ? God brought you here today to hear this. Do you know that you are saved? Do you know that your sins are forgiven? Today is the day of salvation, you may never hear the Gospel again. You don't know how long you're going to have to die. Now, I'll say this, if you're a Christian, and God has given you... You know, He's given all of us this work of evangelism and missions. Use this urgency to spur your cell phone, don't postpone the work of evangelism and missions. Be urgent inside yourself and when you're sharing, there should be a sense of urgency, say, "Please, come to Christ. I'm pleading with you." I mean, even make it a little socially awkward. You're like, "But why?" Because it's not okay for them not to believe in Jesus. It's like, Well, that's okay, just let me know what you think and hey, get back to me, next six months is fine. Don't do that. Say, I am going to pray that you will not even be able to sleep tonight, because this thing is weighing on you so much. I've said that to people.
The Restoration of the Exiles from the Distant Lands
They look at me, think... But it makes sense with the conversation we're having. So in Verses 8-12, The Lord has promised the restoration of the exiles from the distant land. And God says, "I will make you to be a covenant for the people to restore the land and reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captors come out and to those in darkness, be free. And they will feed beside the roads and they'll find pasture on every barren hill. And they will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat on them. And He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them to sites of springs of water. I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. And behold, they will come from afar. They're going to come from the north and some from the west and some from the region of Aswan. Which scholars tell us is Sinema or China. They're going to come from distant places, and they're going to come back and rebuild. So the image here is of a journey and God promises to protect them on their journey and to bring them back.
And the Promised Land, Jerusalem pictured here is a desolate inheritance of rubble-filled city and God promises to rebuild the city with exiles and to gather them from very distant lands. And this would be physically fulfilled literally fulfilled under Ezra and Nehemiah when the exiles came back and they rebuilt the city of Jerusalem, and resumed Jewish history under Gentile domination then. But that's not all these Verses have in mind.
Why did God do that, why did he want the physical literal city of Jerusalem rebuilt? Well because... I want you to picture here's an illustration, imagine a... The producer of Broadway musicals, that wants to go around to other major cities in the US and put on major musicals and he's got one in particular, he comes to a major urban area and he finds an old theater that used to be really popular and well-known and all that, but it's run down now and he chooses that one and refurbishes it, and fixes the seats up, and gives it a new paint job, and cleans all the rubbish out and especially gets the stage ready. And he gets the curtains ready and he gets the lighting ready, Why? For the musical that's going to come there.
And so God is getting Jerusalem ready for the greatest drama there ever has been or ever will be in all of human history, for the sending of Christ to Jerusalem, to be despised and rejected by his own people, to die on the cross and to rise again, in that Jewish setting that's why he's doing it. So it's not an end in of itself, but the exiles are coming back a steady stream, resulting verse 13 in tremendous praise and joy, shout for joy oh heavens rejoice oh earth, burst into song oh mountains, for the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
III. Despite All Appearances, the Exiles Will Return (vs. 14-21)
In verses 14 through 21, despite all appearances, the exiles will return. "Zion speak", Zion is the city of God Jerusalem, the place where God dwells with his people and Zion says, "The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me." This is similar to Jesus in verse 4. Is it even possible for all the exiles to come back? Can it even happen? It's too hard. And so Zion, the city of God is personified and speaks here saying this... I don't see how this can even happen. God has forsaken me and forgotten me, but look at verses 15 through 18, "Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne, though she may forget I will not forget you. Behold I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your walls are ever before me, your son's hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you, lift up your eyes and look around you, all your sons gather and come to you, as surely as I live declares the Lord, you will wear them all as ornaments, you will put them on like a bride." It is impossible for God to forget Zion, he uses this analogy of a mother's love for her nursing baby, you think of a mother holding her baby right here, and the love that she has for that child, what wouldn't she give to protect her child? .
It maybe in some ways the greatest love there is on earth, the greatest human love there is, think of just the image of a mother's committed love for her children, she'd die for them. And so if she can't forget, I can't ever forget Zion ever. And he says, "Though she may forget," look there are some women that do forsake their children, there are some women that selfishly save their lives rather than their children, it happens and even godly mothers there's a limit to their love. You mothers know exactly what I'm talking about. And your kids push you close to that limit, more regularly than you might want to admit, but you still love him, but he's saying, "Even though she may forget my love for Zion is infinitely greater than any mother's love for her children. I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. Your walls are ever before me, I will never forget what I'm intending to do with you."
So I'm going to rebuild and despite all appearances, the exiles will return. Verses 17-21, "Your sons hasten back, and those who laid you waste depart from you. Lift up your eyes and look around; all your sons gather and come to you. As surely as I live," declares the LORD, "you will wear them all as ornaments; you will put them on, like a bride. Though you were ruined and made desolate and your land laid waste, now you will be too small for your people, and those who devoured you will be far away. The children born during your bereavement will yet say in your hearing, 'This place is too small for us; give us more space to live in.' Then you will say in your heart, 'Who bore me these? I was bereaved and barren; I was exiled and rejected. Who brought these up? I was left all alone, but these-- where have they come from?'"
That's language of joy, of rich lavish joy at Zion's children. Now what is all this talking about? Well physically the exiles are going to come back, and they did come back, 42000 of them came back under Ezra and Nehemiah and they came back and rebuild. But I believe this is talking about both and, not either or, but both and. Yes this is prophesied, yes God would be their rear guard he would go before them, He would level the mountains, He would make sure they had enough to drink, he would get them there.
But the big picture goes back to Verse 6, God has made Jesus to be the light for who? , the Gentiles that he may do what? Bring God salvation to the ends of the earth. And the beautiful thing in the New Covenant is you don't need to go to Jerusalem, you don't need to go to the literal physical city of Jerusalem. God has moved on. The text itself says it's too small, if every believer in Jesus on Earth went to Jerusalem right now, I mean the physical city of Jerusalem what would that be like? That would be interesting around the Dome of the Rock, wouldn't that be an interesting moment? .
All of the Christians making a pilgrimage. Millions, hundreds of millions place is too small. So this is ultimately talking about the advance of missions and the streaming of spiritual exiles who are coming to the true new future Jerusalem, the one that's getting ready up in heaven, the heavenly Zion that some day when it's done will descend like a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, and we the living stones in her walls set in place we are through evangelism and missions, being set in this new Zion, this new Jerusalem is getting built and it is glorious. That's what these verses are talking about.
IV. The Gentiles Will Aid the Redemption of Israel... or Be Destroyed (vs. 22-26)
Final section, the Gentiles will aid this process or they're going to be destroyed. Verse 22 and 23, "This is what the Sovereign LORD says: 'See, I will beckon to the Gentiles, I will lift up my banner to the peoples; they will bring your sons in their arms and carry your daughters on their shoulders. Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed.'"
Here's what I make of this, as the Gospel spreads, more and more gentiles are going to become basically spiritual Jews and they're going to see that salvation comes from the Jews, and they are glad to be grafted into a Jewish olive tree and to think like Jews and to consider themselves sons and daughters of Abraham, and they're going to say surely, to the Jewish heritage, God is with you. And I want to be part of that.
And so these kings and queens will actually literally use their positions of power and their influence to spread the Gospel and to advance and hasten the building of this Heavenly Zion. It's going to happen. But some of them, verses 24 through 26, will resist and oppose. Verse 24, “Can plunder, be taken from warriors or captors rescued from the fierce?" Yes. The Lord says, "Yes, Captors will be taken from warriors, plunder retrieve from the fierce. I will contend with those who contend you and your children I will save, and I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh and they'll be drunk on their own blood as with wine, and then all mankind will know that I, the Lord am your Savior, redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob."
So what's going on here? Some gentiles will use their positions of power and influence to resist and oppose the building of the heavenly Zion. They're going to try to oppose it, just as Sanballat and Tobias used their positions in the book of Nehemiah to try to stop the rebuilding of the wall. They use their position to hinder the work of God. And there are some kings like that. Some kings like Xerxes and Ahasuerus helped the building. Some of them, they'll resist and oppose. So it's non-Christian leaders, non-Christian senators, non-Christian congressmen and women, non-Christian Supreme Court Justices, non-Christian President of prestigious liberal arts universities and professors at those universities, and non-Christian local officials who used their positions and dictators and premiers and kings and emperors using their position to hinder Christ and the building of his Kingdom, and to oppress his people and incarcerate them, and beat them, and kill them. God says in these verses, "I'm going to deal with them, I'm going to judge them. Read about it on book of Revelation.
26 verses friends Many of the applications I've given you all the way through but just briefly, magnify the Lord with me. Make Jesus greater in your own heart. Make Him greater. Go back over verses one through seven and find things to praise Jesus for. Exalt Him in your life. Through your personal holiness, magnify Him. Through your evangelism and missions, magnify Him.
Secondly, get on board with what He's doing in the world. He is bringing God salvation to the ends of the earth. December is generally a month in which we focus on missions at FBC especially through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering and I've been so thrilled to be part of this Church. I'm amazed, we're in the top 100 in giving in Lottie Moon nationwide among Southern Baptist Churches, that's amazing. There's like 16,000 Southern Baptist Churches. Were in the top 100. There are a lot of bigger Churches than ours. But you should know that the 135,000, I don't know the exact amount that we gave last year would not even come close to paying for all the Church members that we have overseas with the IMB.
Now, we don't have to do it alone, but just know put in perspective what we give and then the ones we're sending out, every dollar in the Lottie Moon offering goes directly to supporting missions to unreached people groups. That's where it goes towards. So be generous. Pray about what you and your family will do for Lottie Moon. And if I can go beyond that extend it, mission isn't just done in December. So, how about praying about what you can give to the great commission fund in May, or April, or August. Think about your lifestyle and how you want to live in light of the spread of the gospel.
Thirdly, understand the temptation to discouragement that we all feel concerning the spread of the gospel and fight it. Be an encouragement to the elders. Many of you are very encouraging to me personally, be that encouragement. The work of the ministry is hard. It's hard to see what's coming of all this. Be encouraging to our directors. Be encouraging to Matthew as he does city outreach. Be encouraging to Kyle as he reaches out at Duke, and State, and Central, and UNC.
Being encouraging. It's easy to get discouraged at these ministries. Be encouraging to Kevin and all. Be encouraging to those that are laboring, okay? And then as parents, be encouraged that if you're sowing good seed in your kids that you have been faithful to do what God calls you do no matter how they turn out. Be faithful and leave that to Him, fight discouragement.
Fourthly, urgency and salvation. I just, it would break my heart if the Lord would tell me through an angel or some other way that there's some un-regenerate person here that would walk out of this place still un-regenerate thinking they're going to have time to repent next week or next year. Don't leave this place lost. And again to you Christians, be urgent on evangelism and missions. Fifth, meditate on how God has promised to never forsake you ever. He cannot, will not stop loving you. It doesn't matter what you're going through. He has engraved you in the palm of His hand. He will never forget you. He will never lose you, He will never leave, never forsake you. And finally, as I did in my pastoral prayer today, meditate much on the glory of the coming Heavenly Jerusalem. Read about it in Revelation 21 and 22, feed your heart on where we're heading with all of this. Close with me in prayer.