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Isaiah 49-55: The Redemption to Come Print E-mail
Isaiah
Sunday, 04 January 2009

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The greatest problem that any man faces is his own sin.  Sure, there are other serious problems in life: hunger, shelter, loneliness, weakness, but none of these are the greatest problem.  The greatest problem is sin that separates us from God.  We are alienated from our Maker because of our rebellion against Him and His ways.  I may not know anything about you at all this morning, but I do know this: the greatest problem you have is your own sin.

We see this truth coming out in the book of Isaiah.  When we step back and look at the book in large sections, as we did last week and are doing this morning, we see Israelís greatest need.  Last week in chapters 41-48 we saw that even though Israel was exiled in Babylon, the Sovereign Lord had a plan to rescue them and restore the people.  He was going to punish wicked Babylon for their sins and raise up Cyrus to allow Israel to return to their land.  Thus, the great issue of Israelís captivity would be resolved.  Yet, a more important issue still remained.  How could a holy God forgive the sins of such a rebellious nation?  Sure, they had spent time in exile, but that could not pay for their repeated failures to obey the Lord.  We have seen Godís plan to deliver them from captivity, namely using Cyrus as His servant.  But what about their sin? 

Isaiah tells us in chapters 49-55 that the Lord is going to send another servant to deal with Israelís sins.  Yet, this Servant will be unlike any other because the problem that He will deal with is unlike any other problem.  This Servant will be completely obedient to God the Father, unlike Cyrus who was seeking his own will in helping Israel and unlike Israel (who Isaiah also refers to as Godís servant) who repeatedly rebelled.  No, this Servant will be righteous and He will make many to be accounted righteous (53:11).  He will restore justice on the earth and take away the wrath of God.  He is not coming to simply rescue Israel out of captivity to Babylon.  No, He is coming to rescue them out of their greatest problem: captivity to sin.  He is coming for the redemption of Godís people.  In light of this, I want to answer three questions this morning from the text concerning this future redemption.

First, what will the future redemption be like?

Isaiah keeps us in suspense as we await the answer to the question of how God will deal with Israelís sin.  The Servant speaks first and talks of His coming mission.  Yet, the Lord responds in a way that we might not expect in 49:6-7.  Look at those with me.  The Servant is not just coming to deal with the sins of Jacob for that would be too light a thing.  No, He will be a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.  Thus, the future redemption will not be for Israel only.  Isaiah tells us that it is Godís plan for His salvation to reach throughout the whole world and not just one nation.  Godís heart is for the nations and He will send the Servant to be a light for the whole world.  Jesus teaches His disciples this when He tells them: Go therefore and make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19).  And John tells us that on that final day people from every tongue, tribe, and nation will gather around Godís throne to worship the Lamb who was slain, the Servant who was slain.  The future redemption will include more than just Israel, it will include the nations.

Not only will it include the nations, but the future redemption will be characterized by great contrast.  What are some of these contrasts?

First, they will escape captivity (see 49:8-13).  Although this could be a reference to the return from exile, it seems to point to more as well.  Second, they will no longer be alienated from God (see 49:14-26).  Look at 49:14-16.  The Lord will not forget His people, for He declares: I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, a phrase that leads us to think of the nails that were driven into the hands of Christ.  He will multiply His people and defeat their enemies.  Third, even though the sin of Israel was terrible, the work of the Servant will bring comfort and not affliction to Godís people (see 50:1-51:16).  Chapter 50 contrasts the rebellion of Godís people with the obedience of the Servant.  Yet, in chapter 51, we see that those who pursue righteousness will be comforted.  Also, we see the description of the arm of the Lord in this chapter referring to Godís coming salvation.  Look at 51:9-11.  He saved Israel out of Egypt with His mighty arm and He will redeem them again.  Fourth, we see that they will no longer drink down the cup of Godís wrath (see 51:17-23).  Rather, their enemies shall know His wrath.  Finally, the name of the Lord will no longer be despised (see 52:1-12).  Because of Godís punishment of Israel, the nations have despised Him.  But with the future redemption comes peace and restoration.  Godís people will rejoice for the Lord has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.  Such salvation will silence the enemies of Godís people. 

Such great contrasts will characterize the future redemption.  Yet, the question still remainsÖ

Second, how will the future redemption be accomplished?

How will God actually deal with the sins of Israel?  How will He turn the sorrow into laughter and their mourning into joy?  How will He silence the enemies?  And how will His salvation reach even the nations?  The answer that Isaiah gives us is found in 52:13-53:12.  The Servant shall come and act wisely and be exalted.  He shall sprinkle many nations and kings shall shut their mouths because of Him.  He will actually be the arm of the Lord, sent to accomplish the salvation of Godís people.  Yet, He will do this in a most astonishing way: He will suffer.  His appearance will be marred and he will have no outward majesty that we should desire Him.  He will be despised and rejected by men and a man of sorrows.  He will bear our griefs and sorrows in our place.  The punishment that Israel deserved, that the nations deserved, that we deserved, will fall upon Him.  He will do all of this willingly and in complete obedience to the Fatherís will.  For this is the plan of the Lord.  He will crush His Son in our place.  By this sacrifice, will the Servant make many to be accounted righteous.  He will intercede on our behalf.

This is the climax of our passage this morning, the climax of chapters 40-55, the climax of the book of Isaiah, and some would say the climax of the whole Old Testament.  Even though the fulfillment of this prophecy would not come for another 700 years, Isaiah points us to the answer of the central question of the whole Old Testament, namely how can a holy God forgive sinful people?  The answer: by sending Jesus to live a perfect life and suffer in our place at Calvary.  He will righteously make many to be accounted righteous by dying for their sins and being raised on the third day.  Thus, the answer to manís greatest problem is none other than Jesus of Nazareth.  He has come to deal with our sin.

Yet, one final question may remainÖ

Third, how can we be certain of the future redemption?

You may be thinking: ĎWell, William we can be certain because we know the Servantís name?í  And in one sense that is exactly right.  Isaiah was looking forward to the coming of the Servant and we are now looking back to the work of Christ.  Yet, in another sense, we are still awaiting the full redemption are we not?  In other words, all of that glorious description of the coming salvation has not been realized yet.  Jesus promised us that when He returns it will be complete, but that was 2000 years ago.  So let me ask this last question in this way: how can we be certain that God will complete the work of our redemption?  Isaiah writes to answer the question in his day.  Yet, the principles that he gives apply to the question in our day.  So what does he say?

The certainty of our redemption comes from the character of God.  This is what we saw in chapter 40 and we see it again in chapters 54 and 55.  God assures and comforts His people by revealing to them and reminding them who He is.  Look at 54:1-4.  How will the barren one bear children?  How will the widow escape her reproach?  Look at 54:5-10.  The Lord will be the husband to the barren and the widow and the divorced.  He was angry for a moment, but His steadfast love shall not depart from you and His covenant of peace shall not be removed.  What is our guarantee for all of this?  His character.  He is the Lord of hostsÖthe God of the whole earth.  He has set His steadfast love upon His people and determined to redeem them from their sins and all of hell cannot stop Him.  He is the Sovereign King and our redemption is His plan.  Thus, whom have we to fear?  Who can stay His hand? 

I want to close this morning by walking through chapter 55.  Isaiah begins with a glorious invitation.  Look at verses 1-7.  I want to come back to the invitation in a moment, but before I do, notice what Isaiah says in verses 8-11.  Isaiah has just told us that we can be forgiven.  The man who truly knows his sin and rebellion might respond with this question: how can God forgive a sinner like me?  How can He offer such an invitation to one who is so unworthy?  To these questions, Isaiah tells us that Godís thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways.  He is the Sovereign King who has chosen to send His Servant to pay for our sins and He has sent forth His Word to accomplish all of its purposes.  Our forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Sovereign compassion of our God.  He has sent His Word to us and it has accomplished and is accomplishing all that He has purposed for it to do.  His character is our only hope.  His steadfast love is our only chance. 

Thus, the invitation is only possible because of the Lord who has compassion and will abundantly pardon (v. 7).  Please hear me this morning: that is what you need.  I donít care who you are.  I donít care why you came.  But I know that the greatest need you have is to be abundantly pardoned through Christ.  Why would you turn from Him this morning?  If you are thirsty and hungry, then come.  Donít waste your time on the things of the world which can never be what you need.  Rather, come to Christ.  Repent of your sins and trust in what He did for you at Calvary.  In the words of Isaiah: eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food.  Forsake your ways and return to the Lord through the work of the Servant.  The future redemption has been accomplished by Christ.  He has paid for your sins.  Trust in Him and join with those who are committed to taking this invitation to the nations until He returns.  Amen. 

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 14 January 2009 )

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