The ministry of the messiah
THE MINISTRY OF THE MESSIAH (Is 40:1-11)
4 reasons why we must hope in and find comfort in Christ and Christ alone.
Christ satisfies God's wrath (40:2)
Christ reveals God's glory (40:3-5)
Christ demonstrates God's faithfulness (40:6-8)
Christ exemplifies God's mercy (40:9-11)
Spend some time looking at Jesus – love him more and glorify him more.
The good news doesn’t mean anything, don’t have any reason to rejoice and be glad and celebrate unless we understand who this king is, who this savior is and why we need him.
Often we present the gospel that way – I’ve got good news, God’s son died for you sin. Doesn’t mean anything because people don’t have a context to understand it.
God doesn’t present the good news that way – began preparing people thousands of years before – mercy in the midst of Judgment.
ñ God began preparing His people for the coming of the messiah thousands of years before it happened.
◦ In Gen 3:15 He spoke of one who would crush the head of Satan.
◦ Flood – Gen 12 seed to bring God’s blessing to these scattered, nations.
◦ Israel not that nation – golden calf in the midst of deliverance. Yet In Deut 18 He spoke of a great prophet to come who will speak all that God commands.
◦ In Ps 2 He spoke of a great king.
◦ In Isaiah 9 He spoke of a Son who would be given and called the wonderful counselor, everlasting Father, prince of peace, almighty God.
◦ Hundreds of other passages speak of the person and work of the Messiah who was to come.
ñ God wasn't just telling them that the messiah would come, He was trying to show them their great for the Messiah. He wasn't just telling them what the Messiah would come and do, He was trying to show them why they so desperately needed the Messiah to come and do what only He could do.
ñ To understand why the Angels announced “good news of great joy for all people” we have to understand the growing need and the growing expectation that God would send the messiah, His chosen instrument to regain what had been lost and to put right all that was wrong.
ñ As you open the pages of the N.T you are immediately struck by this great sense of anticipation, this looking for and longing for the messiah.
ñ The question on everyone's lips is not, what is the messiah anyway, but simply – is Jesus the Christ, the messiah, God's chosen, appointed servant, the one the Scriptures have been pointing us to.
ñ Like the O.T is the bad news, the story of mankind's sin and defeat by Satan. The N.T is the good news of God's triumph despite man's sin and defeat.
The storyline = Israel created, Israel sins, Israel judged and exiled – what now? Israel have clearly failed as God’s servant, God will do for Israel what they could not do for themselves – God will send a messiah, a servant a true son a king, a prophet, a priest to mediate and truly heal His people.
The devastation of the Old Prepares the way for the Good news othe N.T.
The failure of Israel forms the backdrop to understand the fullness of God’s messiah.
The book of Isaiah is structured in the same way. 66 books in the Bible, 66 in the book of Isaiah.
39 books in the O.T and 27 in the N.T – so First 39 chapters of Isaiah - warns of the serious consequences of sin and the destruction which will come upon the nation as a result. Discipline and destruction.
The last 27 chapters of Isaiah are like the good news. The “Good News” is not that God's people will repent and sort themselves out. Its that God's people will turn away from sin and turn to God's messiah, God's chosen instrument, who is the one who will sort things out.
suddenly in chapter 40 there is a change of tone. Looks forward to a time when Israel will find herself in exile, away from the promised land, .. will realize that sin got her there, repent.
At that point, after Israel acknowledges her sin and turns to God, what is God’s word to her at that point? To a nation who is saying, “has God abandoned us? Can God forgive us?” Isaiah writes the words of chapter 40 and following.
READ: Isaiah 40: 1-11
Comfort, comfort my people says your God.
As I said, this marks a major shift in the book. The first 39 chapters consist of Isaiah’s constant rebuke and warning of impending judgment.
39:5-6 prophecy to Hezekiah of invasion of Babylon.
In the wake of all this rebellion and dissipation, this failure and despair, comes a new message. Out of no-where.
In chapter 40 Isaiah outlines a message of hope in God’s salvation and deliverance and he then fills it in through the remaining chapters of the book. So chapter 40 really forms a prologue,
centers on God’s solution for Israel’s sin – the suffering servant, the messiah.
While Israel were to look forward and set their hope on God’s servant to come, we look back and we set our hope on God’s servant who has come.
Isaiah gives us 4 reasons why we must hope in and find comfort in Christ and Christ alone.
1) Christ satisfies God's wrath (2)
Vs 2 – speak comfort, or speak tenderly or literally speak to the heart of Jerusalem. He is commanding Isaiah to be encouraging, to be convincing.
Chronologically, Isaiah is given these words before the exile, but He is prophesying to a time when God’s discipline will have achieved its purpose
would begin to understand the depth of their sin.
haunted by two questions. Can God deliver us from this mess, from this pit of mire that we’ve got ourselves into; and secondly does He even want to? See repentance is pre-supposed in this passage.
The first 39 chapters concern the unrepentant and they contain mostly rebuke. But for those who have failed, who have sinned and have realized their hopeless predicament before God. To them come the words of comfort.
These are the words of God to a rebellious nations who at some point in the future will realize her rebellion and turn back to God and will wonder if they have any place in God's plans and purposes anymore. If they have any hope of a standing with Him. We are not talking about sinning a few times, or even about sinning for a lifetime. We are talking about a nation who, generation after generation lived in continual, conscious rebellion against God and these are God's words to them when they finally turn back to Him. If there was anytime God should have said “ told you so, serves you right” it was now. Yet we hear the forceful and determined – comfort, comfort my people.
Comfort....comfort my people.
I just want you to stop for a moment and put that in context. We are celebrating a God, who would look 2000 years of rebellion in the face and say – these are my people and I am sending my Son to pay for their sin. Jesus said, I have come to the lost sheep of Israel.
The only reason why there can be any comfort, any consolation, any hope in the face of our continual rebellion – is because God has set His love upon us...
When you find yourself in the wilderness of sin, (not if, when). What you will hear is the tender beckoning of a loving Father....comfort, comfort my people. Comfort my son or my daughter, assure her of my unconditional love, remind him of my tender mercies....
We too find ourselves in the aftermath of sin and asking, what now. We will see that God’s answer to Israel’s sin is the same answer He has provided for our sin and that answer is Jesus Christ.
Tell her that her warfare is ended. That really means hardship or hard service or suffering for a purpose. Basically that her discipline is over.
Isaiah 51:17 says that Israel has drunk from his hand the cup of God’s wrath.
received double for all her sins.
Couched in the middle of this is the affirmation that her sin has been pardoned. God’s acceptance of the Levitical sacrifices. So this word is speaking of atonement.
So did Israel’s suffering in Babylon atone for her sins? Possible if ignore the next fifteen chapters of Isaiah’s message.
Isaiah 53: 6 “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Vs 12 “ yet he bore the sin of many.”
To say that Israel could somehow atone for her sin, is the miss the whole point.
Isaiah’s name means “the Lord is salvation” and he affirms again and again that God alone can bring salvation.
Only reason why Israel’s hardship could ever be over is because her sin would be atoned for. God would do on her behalf what she could not do. He would dissipate His wrath on Christ.
If you don’t know Jesus Christ, you have no hope of recovery. The necessary result of your sin is the eternal wrath of God and it will not be dissipated, it will never be over. Apart from the messiah, from Jesus who is the Christ, the messiah of God...there is not hope and no comfort for sin. Christ alone can satisfy God's wrath.
2) Christ reveals God's glory (3-5)
Vs 3 A voice cries. In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord… There are only two commands in this portion of scripture.
Israel preparing for the return of their conquering king. They are laying out the red carpet so to speak.
Tendency to wallow in self pity. Have you ever done that? …
Pull yourself together and get ready for your king. He’s telling Israel, get up, get ready, to take hope, to take courage, to stop wallowing in self-pity – the victorious, conquering king is on His way.
That's where there imagery is taken from in vs 3-5. When a king had been victorious in battle, on his way back he would send messengers ahead of him to tell them of his victory so that as he came back through the land the people could greet him and thank him and celebrate with him the victory that had been won and peace that had been re-established.
That's the voice in the wilderness that is crying out – its the herald who would go ahead and tell the people that their king is coming. Of course this verse is applied to John the Baptist in the N.T who prepared the people for and pointed the people to Jesus.
Vs 4 tells us why. Not part of the command to get ready. This is part of the procession of the king.
The uneven ground, the valleys -natural obstacles to a returning king - not this king.
Isaiah is telling Israel, the Lord is coming back ready or not, so get ready.
He is coming and is coming quickly and nothing will stop Him.
All flesh together will see it. Isaiah expands on the response of the nations in 45:23 – To me every knee will bow and every tongue swear allegiance.” - He is coming as conqering King over all nations and all people.
This is good news and hope and consolation not just for Israel but for all people.
The central point is this – God tells Israel to stop being focused on self and to focus on Christ and His glorious victory.
Every choice to sin is a choice to be selfish, to choice to gratify our own pride or ego or lust above God. … The only way out of sin is to look to Christ, to turn our gaze to Christ.
We can’t fix our sin, we can’t change our sin and we can’t undo our sin. All we can do is repent and look forward to the day when Christ will completely eradicate sin from our experience.
So the question is, how firmly is your gaze fixed on Christ?
Christ is God's victory, Christ is God's glory, Christ is God's hope and comfort despite human sin.
Christ satisfies God's wrath. 1) Christ reveals God's glory (His goodness, His power, His victory.
3) Christ demonstrates God's faithfulness (6-8)
Vs 6-8 has one point. God is faithful and men are not.
All its beauty is like a flower of the field. That word beauty is gesed. The word which refers to God’s covenant faithfulness. God’s ability to make a promise and keep it.
Well, all flesh, all humanity are like grass and their faithfulness like a wilting flower. Palestine’s grass grows rapidly in spring and its wilts just as rapidly before the heat of summer.
The breath of God is probably being likened to the khamsin, the dry desert winds that blew in over Palestine and literally scorched the land.
The first part is looking at people out there
Hezekiah had tried relying on Assyria
the end of vs 7 he turns it around a little when he says surely the people are grass. Now he’s pointing to God’s people and saying you too are grass. You too are unfaithful and unreliable.
This is exactly the same point that ps 103 was making which we looked at last week – that man's unfaithfulness forms the backdrop that highlights the faithfulness of God.
He affirms that despite the fact that people are faithless, God is faithful. As one commentator put it. God’s faithfulness doesn’t end at the point of disobedience. Did you get that! REPEAT.
again, prologue. Isaiah makes it clear that God’s promises are kept through the suffering servant, through the faithful servant, through His messiah..
2 Cor 1:20 says, All the promises of God find their yes in Him.
While we might fail, He never will.
C.H Spurgeon: “It is not your hold of Christ that saves, but his hold of you!
It’s like God has got a sailors grip on us. trapize
Even though we may loose our grip, God never will. Our failure will never nullify God’s covenant faithfulness to us in Christ.
As Christians, sin is all the more devastating because we know better.
ultimately our relationship to God is not maintained by our good works or obedience, but by Christ’s covenant faithfulness. We are assured of God’s eternal benevolence because of Christ’s perfection not our own.
not to make ourselves out more holy than we are.
Are you one of those people who never needs help? Why are we always fine when people ask
Martin Luther has said that “A man must completely despair of himself in order to become fit to obtain the grace of Christ.”
This is a reason to find hope and comfort in the wake of sin. 1. Christ satisfies God's wrath 2) Christ reveals God's glory 3) Christ demonstrates God's faithfulness. 4)
4) Christ exemplifies God's mercy (9-11)
Vs 9 Here we have a shift in voice. In verse 2 Isaiah is told to speak to Jerusalem. Now in verse 9 we have Zion and Jerusalem proclaiming a message to the rest of Judah.
two commands in this portion of scripture. Herald, shout out, lift up your voice. Jerusalem is the capital of Judah and she is being told to spread the good news.
Three times the word behold is repeated.
Judah must shout out, “Look at who God is and what He has done.” Look at the grace of God toward me, which is also extended toward you. Look at the character of God.
Vs 10. It says he comes with might and His arm rules for Him. The poetry is reinforcing the same point. God has power to deliver. He able to save and to rescue you from even the greatest of failure and despair.
Then we see one of the most beautiful pictures in all of scripture. His reward is with him and his recompense before him.
Although in English it looks like we have reward and judgment being painted here, that’s not the case. These two words have very similar meanings and they refer to the payment or reward for a task completed.
Israel is Christ’s reward. The picture is one of a warrior returning in battle with his booty, the spoils of His victory. And under His arms are Israel, His pride and joy…
Imagine this stubborn and obstinate nation, who have to be saved because they cannot save themselves, who consistently unfaithful and constantly failing, who are the sole cause of the servants suffering.
Here he returns from battle carrying them as His reward. Is Christ’s return good news for you even though you sin?...
· Look at how tenderly Christ deals with the fallen Israel. He will tend His flock like a shepherd…
· Here we see that Christ, the shepherd exercises general care (tends his flock), is watchful of particular needs (gathers the lambs) and identifies with concerns within the flock (those that have young). So Christ takes care of us right down to the weakest, most insignificant individual. He notices our needs and meets them.
1 Pet 1:13 says – set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
See Christ is coming back to claim his reward. God tells Israel, you are his reward. N.T church not reward, but bride.
Is it possible to keep quiet about such abounding grace?
“The ultimate test of our spirituality is the measure of our amazement at the grace of God.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones.
Abounding sin is the terror of the world, but abounding grace is the hope of mankind A. W Tozer.
That is why the N.T explodes with the heavenly choir announcing “ good news of great joy for all people”
Proclaim – shout it out, herald it. Whatever you do, don’t keep quiet.
As Christians we want to live holy lives and we want to show people how Christ is transforming us. But we forget the present tense of that – Chrsit is transforming us. We are not there yet. We will blow it, sin is still a part of our nature and daily experience....but we have God's solution for sin, we have the demonstration of God's mercy in Christ.
Unbelievers need to see how we don't deny sin, or justify sin or underplay sin – but instead we confess it, we openly acknowledge it and take it to God's messiah, who has conquered our sin and died our death that we might share in His victory. The good news always rises up out of the bad news of Sin.
Our sin reminds us of those who are having to deal with the same devastation and yet have not solution, no remedy, no hope in Christ. How can we ignore their predicament? How can we pretend to be holier than thou, to be too good? How can we be too busy to introduce them to the only cure for sin radiation?
“The highest sin and the deepest despair together cannot baffle the power of Jesus.” C. H Spurgeon.
There are two things that God’s grace to use cannot do. It cannot result in defeat and it cannot be kept quiet. That’s why as Christians we are proclaimers of good news. Bursting.
This Christmas, let us celebrate Christ – because we certainly have something to celebrate! - “Fear not, see, I bring you good news, of a great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord.” (Lk 2:10-11)