Who could grasp the inexplicable ways in which God thinks and acts. We may never understand the “why” or the “ways” in which God acts, on this side of eternity. But we are able to see “how” he acts and “what” he does. He has fully explained himself (all we need to know) in Christ Jesus.
Men find it hard, if not impossible, to forgive…to pardon the offenses of others. The multiplied number of offenses and the degree of offenses converge to make forgiveness impossible for all, all the time. But in God, men can find unlimited pardon. There is still time to humble ourselves and repent. Lord, give this crusty old sentry a humble repentance towards you, your will and your purposes.
For any who would take a solemn pause in their life of sin and rebellion; for those who would resolve to leave a life of sin and return to God, there is full pardon. True repentance will invoke the forgiveness of God.
Imagine a call to inmates in prison – “If you would like a pardon, please see the warden in his office now.“ What inmate would ignore such an invitation? None! The invitation from God has been made. Come now for forgiveness of sin. Lord, thank you for your pardon of my sins and transgressions. I am set free.
Isaiah Chapter 55 flows from Redemption‘s story (Ch 53) through the assurances of Redemption‘s victory (Ch 54) and into a grand and glorious invitation to Redemption‘s offer of God’s free gift of life everlasting (Ch 55). Isaiah says, “Anyone thirsty? Come drink freely. Are you hungry? The finest food is available, free.”
Jesus probably had these verses in mind when he said, “and from his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (Jhn 7:37,38).“ John the Apostle writes from exile, “He [who sits on the throne] said, ‘I will give water of life to the thirsty…freely’“ (Rev 21:6). So The thirsty soul may drink long and often from the well of perpetual life giving water (Jhn 4:13,14). Lord, there could be no clearer invitation in the Old Testament for this thirsty sentry to bring his unquenchable thirst/hunger to you. You will not fail to abundantly satisfy.
Just as God predicted and delivered Israel from 70 years of captivity in Babylon, he will deliver his church from the grip of this world. There will be a new world order when Christ returns. There will be a glorious new City of God, the New Jerusalem, from which he will reign.
The City of God will be constructed of precious stones. Children will learn and live in righteous peace under God’s tutelage. Any who take up arms against God’s people will be crushed. No weapon forged against his people can or will prevail against them. No charge will be brought against his people. God has said it. It shall be!
Lord, you have given even the weakest watchman the spiritual armor to stand against the evil one (Ephesians 6). No spiritual weapon used against me will succeed, because of your might.
I am often arrested by the imagery of Scripture. I am halted, at times for days, wondering the meaning of it all (turquoise, sapphire foundations, pearl & ruby gates, mortar made of precious jewels). What splendor for mere men to imagine. Many, smarter than I, have speculated their meaning.
What splendor there is for a shipped wrecked Israel as she repents and discovers again God‘s heart for her. What Splendor awaits the church triumphant in the millennium (Rev 21:9-21). But most of all, what splendor awaits my wandering heart when times of refreshing come to me. Thank you Lord, for your splendid gifts to my repentant heart.
It is true that Jehovah God briefly turned his back on Israel because of her unfaithfulness (vv7,8). But this brief moment is in contrast to his promise of everlasting love and mercy (vv9,10).
This is the solemn promise of God: he would never again turn his back on his people. They would see the grander of great mountains dissolve before their eyes (see pigs fly) before God would ever again turn on his people.
As it has been for Israel, so it is for his church. Persecution, calamity and troubles may come. But God’s fierce love and devotion for his people will never be, shall never be, derailed nor gone missing. Lord, you have never forsaken this elder sentry; been forever faithful to me.
Coming down out of the clouds of the “Suffering Servant” prophecy, Isaiah jubilantly exhorts Israel to break into triumphant songs of joy. She had been cut off for her unfaithfulness. Like a woman unable to have children she had been shamed. But now God would show her favor as a woman blessed with many children.
Israel’s mourning over captivity and shame would be changed to joyful singing. She would be set free. Her shame and unfaithfulness, she would remember no more. And so it has been for this old sentry. Lord, you have blessed me since my days of repentance – the sins of my youth have been forgotten and I exult in my Redeemer.
In these verses God explains clearly that his Servant, our Redeemer, will lay down his life as the final sacrifice for man’s sin (v10). As a result, many rebels will be made righteous because of his sacrifice (v11; Rom 10:9,10; 2Co 5:21; Eph 4:22–24).
Most remarkable of all, he gave up his glory to become a man like me (Phi 2:7). He was subject to every sin and temptation, yet he himself was without sin (Heb 4:15,16). “He was counted among [identified with] the rebels (v12).“ He was like me but not me. He bore my sin and now as my Redeemer he is at the right hand of the Father advocating and interceding for me (Rom 8:34). He is my compassionate Prayer Sentry.
Isaiah 53:10–12 stands in sharp contrast and great relief to verses 1–9. Here it is revealed, as difficult as it is to absorb, that the plan of God all along had been to crush the Redeemer-Prince and cause him great anguish. However, it is important to note that the point of that anguish was not for the sake of anguish. It was for the sake of absolving man’s sin.
Does a parent take joy in punishing a child? No. It is for the sake of a future outcome. Just so, the Redeemer will see God‘s plan prosper and the redemption accomplished by his suffering. He will be satisfied at the future outcome. Many will come to wholeness out of sin. The Redeemer himself will be honored as a victorious soldier.
(Note Hebrews 12:2 “[Keep your] eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated [victorious] in the place of honor beside God’s throne.” (NLT) )
The only adequate response of the duty sentry is to fall on the floor of the watchtower, weep tears of repentance, tears of joy and worship the victorious Redeemer.
The prophecy of Isaiah 53 continues here to describe the oppressive and unrighteous nature of the Redeemer’s shameful treatment and trial. Yet, this Redeemer, under great duress, said not a word of complaint. He surrendered as a lamb led to the slaughter, as a sheep before his shearers. He saw it through to the end.
The debt of sin, death, was called in. The Redeemer patiently, meekly and quietly suffered oppressive treatment and the unrighteous proceedings of incited leaders and an angry mob. He was charged for acts he never committed. He was cut down, sharply canceled out, before ever he might have a single heir in this earth (v10 informs us that he would ultimately have many spiritual heirs). For the sins of the people this righteous man, we now know as Jesus, The Christ, was struck down violently and suffered in our place.
The Redeemer, falsely accused, died a criminal’s death. The Jews would have buried him dishonorably along with the two thieves or the malevolent but sparred Barabbas. However, the Romans handed his body over to Joseph, the Aramathaean – a “rich man.” Why? Because according to the Scriptures, “His actions were [truly] prompted by pure love and his speech consisted of unclouded sincerity and truth.“* This honorable burial would inaugurate his glorification to come, noted in v10,12.
Barnes assesses this passage beautifully: “How strikingly and literally was this [prophecy] fulfilled in the life of [Christ]. It would seem almost as if it had been written after he had lived, and was history rather than prophecy. No other person ever so entirely accorded with the description of [Christ] by the prophet.“**
O how great is the enormity of this old sentry’s sin. How sufficient is the wonderful matchless grace of my Redeemer-Prince (Jesus the Messiah). He forgave all my sin and gave me life eternal. All he asks in return is that men would “believe the message” and trust in him (v1). The way I thank him and honor him is by believing and following him.
“By his stripes we are healed.“ Grasp the context here. Our Redeemer didn’t just represent man in redemption from sin. He literally took our sin AND all their consequences into his own being. All our weaknesses (the result of sin), all our sorrows, our troubles, our rebellion, our sickness and disease (all the results of sin, increasing his pain exponentially), he absorbed in his own body.
O, the anguish of our Redeemer’s soul. It was unspeakable, bearing ALL our sin and their consequences. His “stripes“ were literal. They painfully represent his horrible, unspeakable death. ALL that sin is and represents – the disease of certain and eternal death (were there NO redemption) – our Redeemer died for and provided for us complete wholeness and healing. We are healed, saved, from the curse of sin and ALL its consequences.
I am staggered and left without words, how to respond. The Lord tells me in verse one my only necessary response. Simply “BELIEVE the message,” receive and follow Jesus.
When I think of my fallen self and how desperately wicked can be my heart, I think of my risen Savior who has borne my sin and shame and redeemed me to himself.
The sin, which does so easily beset me, has its end in the cross of Calvary. It drives afresh the nails into my Savior’s hands and feet. My besetting sins do not go unaccounted for. These…
…my sins of commission – to lie, to lust, to speak ill/criticize, to waste time;
…my sins of omission – to disobey by not going when moved, not speaking when prompted, not helping when urged;
…my sins of disposition – envy, pride, anger, evil desire;
All these my sins, and more, go painfully under the shed blood of Jesus on the cross.
My unmerited righteousness in Christ does not come without a price. I cannot flee the failure of sins committed, but I can, in Christ, flee from the sin not yet committed before it besets me. AND EVERY SIN FROM WHICH I FLEE IS THAT MUCH PAIN RELIEVED IN MY SAVIOR’S BODY. FOR EVERY SIN RESISTED IS A SIN FOR WHICH HE DID NOT HAVE TO DIE.
Where sin has abounded in my heart without confession, my precious Savior is left to suffer. For lack of confession is unbelief in his atoning sacrifice, his faithfulness to forgive my sin and cleanse me from all unrighteousness (1Jn 1:9). My confession acknowledges and accepts his sacrifice.
If he did not want to forgive us he would not have died so horrible a death. So believe. Do not carry your burden of sin. He has borne it.
Confess it and do not mourn any longer. You are forgiven and accepted in the beloved (Eph 1:6).
(Note: the following is from Valley Of Vision, a book of Puritan prayers)
“…if I sin not I should thank thee for it;
“…if I do sin I should be humbled daily under it;
“…I should mourn for sin more than other men do, for when I see I shall die because of sin, that makes me mourn; when I see how sin strikes at thee, that makes me mourn; when I see that sin caused Christ’s death, that makes me mourn;”
“…Thou has taught me that faith is nothing else than receiving thy kindness; that it is an adherence to Christ, a resting on him, a love clinging to him as a branch to the tree, to seek life and vigor from him.” [To mourn no longer]
“…I thank thee for showing me the vast difference between knowing things by reason, and knowing them by the spirit of faith. [Job 42:5,6]
“…By reason I see a thing is so; by faith I know it is.
“…I have seen thee by reason [head knowledge] and have not been amazed.
“…I have seen thee as thou are in the Son [by faith] and HAVE BEEN RAVISHED TO BEHOLD THEE…
“…I bless thee that I am thine in my Savior, Jesus.” [Mourn no longer]
The painful reality is that our Redeemer-prince, who is here spoken of, suffered excruciatingly for our sin. He was treated as lower than the lowest in society. He took upon himself the grief and agonies of men. He was our substitute. Men interpreted his calamities as punishment for his own sin. But, NO! It was for our sin, my sin, that he took such punishment.
Jesus was my substitute. He was crushed for my sins, whipped so I could be healed (made whole). It was I for whom my Savior bled and died. He was my substitute. The Lord – God laid upon him all the sins of every man, past and present. He was my substitute; the sinless servant suffered punishment for my sin. No other could have stood in for me and borne the penalty for my sin? No one! Lord, may the love and devotion of this old sentry for you, deepen with every passing day.
Who would ever have thought that a scrawny kid from Nazareth, the son of a humble craftsman, would grow up to become the savior of the world. Unlikely.
Jesus did not possess all the attributes we’ve come to expect in “leaders” – wealth, power, good looks, education, large following. No, the Messiah, Jesus, had none of those things. Unlikely.
Jesus was an “ordinary Joe,” as we might put it. He was fully acquainted with the hurt men feel (no silver spoon in his mouth). Therefore, he was despised and rejected. But he was severely underestimated. Unlikely.
Men have made a drastic miscalculation to disregard the life, teaching and ministry of Jesus – the Messiah, Savior of the world. “Who has believed the message? Who has seen his power?” (V1). Lord, I have believed and have received you as Savior and Lord. I have seen your power in my life.
Following Jehovah‘s announcement of his deliverance of Israel from the hands of Babylon the subject is left. What follows is the most magnificent description of the coming Redeemer and Messiah in all the Bible (Isa 52:13-53:12). There is no superlative in the English language to describe or enhance this portion of scripture regarding the Lord’s Messiah – Jesus.
Isaiah now describes the coming Savior of the world. He sees his disfigurement and rejection as a necessary part of salvation-redemption. Described here as the humble suffering servant, this Savior would cleanse the nations. Though not immediately recognized he would amaze many and he would be highly exalted. Paul refers to this passage as the gospel to the world (Rom 15:20,21).
Lord, words fail me to express my gratitude for such a gracious savior. “Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.” *
Filled with anticipation for the announcement of the coming Messiah-Deliverer (Isa 52:13-53:12), God announces “Good News“ (v7) to those in captivity. Deliverance is here. Judah wantonly sold herself into slavery for nothing. She will be released at no cost.
God will raise up a conquering prince, Cyrus of Persia. He will plunder Judah’s captors and in an act of mercy and justice, release God’s people back to their homeland. “How beautiful are the feet of the messenger who brings good news of peace and salvation. The God of Israel reigns.“ He has done the same for me. Lord, ain’t that Good News!
AIN’T THAT GOOD NEWS
I got a robe up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a robe up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
(CHORUS) I’m gonna lay down this world, Gonna shoulder up my cross; Gonna take it home to my Jesus, Ain’t that good news, ain’t that good news
I got a crown up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a crown up in that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a Savior in-a that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
I got a Savior in-a that Kingdom; Ain’t that good news, Ain’t that good news
“Wake up, wake up, O Zion! Get your party clothes on. Arise from the dust and the ashes. Take the place of honor, O Jerusalem (vv1,2). I, the Lord, I’m about to demonstrate my power…do an unheard of thing (v10).” Jehovah God is ready to “throw down” one of the greatest prophecies of the coming Messiah-Redeemer in recorded Scripture.
Isaiah‘s pen is ready. He has no idea what God is about to reveal to him [in Isaiah 53]. But God knows. I see God as beside himself with joy as he anticipates what he is about to say. On this side of redemption I too know what is coming. In my morning watch I am just trying to let that anticipation of Heaven sink into my small finite place in the universe. Lord, endow this lone sentry with renewed joy for the things of God: the will, the work and the wonder.
Here reads the assurances from God of the complete effectiveness of his Redeemer. If God sends him, he will respond to his need. God will help him, protect him and make of him the promise to deliver his people. He is a Redeemer–shepherd (vv9–12).
In the age of the Redeemer (“the right time”) men will be set free from the darkness of their sin and come to the light. They will be led, cared for and nurtured by the great Redeemer-shepherd. This deliverance is worthy of great rejoicing and loud songs of praise.
Lord, what a great assurance is ours that our promised Redeemer-shepherd has come. He is Jesus, the crucified one; raised from the grave, ascended to Heaven and now seated at the right hand of God.
Jesus, my redeemer–friend, wonders in his humanity at the outcome of his earthly work and ministry, as perhaps ineffective. (He also stopped and prayed three times over the certainty of God’s plan in the garden before his crucifixion – Mat 26:36-47.) He has no hesitation in trusting his life’s work into the hands of Jehovah God (v4). Isaiah 49:5-7 explains why.
Our Redeemer is confident in the source, strength and certainty of his life call and work (v5).
He is assured that nothing he did on earth will be lost. It will ultimately be used to point ALL men to God (v6).
Finally, he is assured that “rejection,“ or apparent failure, is not the measure of success in God’s eyes. God is faithful (v7 & 25:1).
Lord, I can learn lessons from Jesus in trusting you completely with the outcomes of the work to which you call me.
Every now and then one has to stop and take stock of all God is doing; take into account the bigger picture. It enables the prayer sentry to pray with understanding. I had one of those days yesterday. Here is what God showed me.
The story of Israel, the Jewish race, is the story God’s redemption. God chose to reveal himself to mankind through the Jewish race. They would be the chosen seed, the chosen light pointing men to God. However, they failed to do that as a people. They were persistently disobedient and rebellious toward God. Yet, God seems somehow to always be the protective father, letting his favored child continue in disobedience. Why does God continually protect them? I find myself wondering, “Why does God seem to always put up with Israel’s waywardness and incorrigibility?” “Why did he choose them?”
The Old Testament reveals that God does discipline his chosen people throughout the course of their national life. But Israel, as a whole, never seems to get it. They just seem to be a constant disappointment to God. At one point God does seems willing to start over. But then Moses steps in to protect them. He asks God not to destroy Israel completely and God relents (Exodus 32:1-14).
The questions to me seem to be: why did God choose Israel? Would there not have been another people group who would have shown themselves to be more faithful? The answer to that questions is, “Probably not.” Why did God find it necessary to choose some outlying race of people anyway?
Certainly, greater minds than mine have pondered these questions for, no doubt, ages. But here is my simple and feeble assessment. I think the answer to why God chose Israel, the Jewish race, as his chosen people, lies in the omniscient plan, character and love of God. In the beginning God set out to redeem mankind from their fall into sin. God’s omniscient plan called for a Redeemer and a sacrifice for sin. This is seen in the first blood sacrifice of an animal out of the Garden of Eden. God performed the first sacrifice. Instead of killing Adam for his sin (for the wages of sin is death-Rom 6:23), God took the life of an animal (shed its blood as a substitute, propitiation for sin) and used the skin as a “covering” for Adam and Eve. Thus, God covered the sin of man (Gen 3:21).
Back to the nation of Israel. God didn’t choose the Jewish people because of their superior moral character or their religious devotion. In fact, God never chooses any of us because we are so righteous or so good. In fact, to the contrary, Scripture says there is no one righteous, not one (Rom 3:10). But I digress.
The Jewish race was chosen because God is sovereign not because they were superior. He could have chosen any people group. Through this chosen seed, God would institute and implement symbols of worship, sacrifice and redemption. This structure in the Jewish sacrificial system would be, has been and is, sufficient to forecast or foretell God’s Redeemer and the sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice would be the ground of redemption for all who would believe.
Israel was and is no different from any other people group. They were, we all are, sinners. But what God needed was a human ancestry, a lineage, a seed from which a Redeemer-sacrifice would emerge, from which his GRACE would extend to all men. Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was that Redeemer–sacrifice. Jesus would be the fulfillment of God’s promise of redemption. He would be God’s sacrifice, God’s instrument of GRACE to all men for their sin. The Jewish nation was selected by the sovereign plan of God to bear witness to and be the seed and instrumentality of that redemption. She was not selected not because she was perfect but because God is sovereign.
Further, God chose the Jewish race knowing full well in advance that they would be prideful, disobedient, obstinate, stiff-necked, rebellious and hard hearted. God knew in advance that this people would break his heart over and over again. God would discipline and or punish their sinful rebellion, but he would not completely destroy the ancestry, the lineage, the seed from which his Redeemer would eventually emerge. In fact, God would go to extravagant lengths to protect his people…even if it was only a small remnant.
So, the story and history of God’s chosen people is really the story of all men. Just as God showed mercy and grace to a sinful, stubborn and rebellious people of Israel, so he shows mercy and grace to all people. The story of God’s longsuffering with me is reflected in the story of God’s longsuffering with Israel. They deserved nothing. He gave them everything. So, it is with me as well.
All men everywhere are indebted. Not indebted to the Jewish race, but to God, for choosing a people (a people like me, no different from me) to reveal his Redeemer, Jesus Christ. There were no perfect people from which to choose. There are still no perfect people. Never has been. What we do have is a perfect Redeemer, Jesus Christ, whom God was pleased to sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. Just as Israel was chosen by GRACE, sustained by GRACE and saved by GRACE, so we to are chosen, sustained and saved by GRACE.
There are none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).
All have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23).
But God demonstrates is own love for us, in that while were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).
Next time you think that God is unfairly and forever longsuffering with the Jewish race, his seed of redemption, think about how longsuffering he has been and is with you as well. So we should be towards others.
Though the people of God were promise breakers, stubborn, obstinate, stiff-necked and hardheads (v1,4), still, God was gracious. Though they were indifferent to God and often ignored him, God was gracious. Though they did not listen when God exposed their idols as imposters (vv5,14) and revealed himself as far superior (vv12,13,17), still, he was gracious.
No matter the rebellious state of his people, still he was gracious. For the sake of his name he would deliver them, set them free to a future and a hope from captivity in Babylon (v11). God is the consummate loving Father. God has and always will, stand by his people, as a father with his children (vv20,21). He stands by me in my failures. But for those whom he does not know, there will be no peace (v22). Lord, the heart of this old sentry sings of his gracious Redeemer.
What happens when God delivers men from a drought of blessing, goodness and righteousness? What happens when revival comes, when awakening comes? Having lost their sense of worship for God in captivity, what would deliverance mean for Israel? What would it look like for us today.
The heavens will open wide with showers of blessing pouring down on the people. The skies open up and rain down righteousness on all men. Just as a parched land is watered and renewed, so the parched souls of men will sprout forth the beautiful fruit of salvation and righteousness. Such is the deliverance of Israel from her captivity. Such it will be for all men who repent and put their trust in God. Lord, pour down revival and awakening in our day on the parched souls of humanity.
God clearly explains why he summoned, called and equipped the Persian, Gentile, pagan king, Cyrus. Because he knew his people would need 1) a deliverer from the coming Babylonian captivity, 2) a hope in the midst of tragedy and darkness (God is the God of both dark times and good times – v7) and 3) he would use this prophecy to later reveal himself as the One who fulfills his redemption promises. The entire world would know that he is God.
Lord, it is clear to me that you are always working behind the scenes on my behalf. Nothing happens by accident. You give me hope when all hope seems gone. I am never without hope.
Here is seen one of God’s most incredible prophetic accounts. God declares through Isaiah, by name, that “Cyrus,“ the Persian, shall be God’s “shepherd“ king, “anointed one,” to deliver Israel out of Babylonian captivity.
Why so incredible? Because this prophecy was delivered by Isaiah 150 years before Cyrus was born. Further, he is the only pagan, Gentile king referred to by God as “anointed one.“ Cyrus is, in this sense, a type of the greater Anointed One, Redeemer of Israel and of all men, Jesus Christ. God chooses whom he chooses for his work of redemption. Lord, you alone are mighty to save. I put my trust in you.