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Independence Day Special: Idols vs. the Servant of the Lord - Isa 41:21-42:9

EPHESIANS-1-190704
length: 73:56 - taught on Jul, 4 2019
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Thursday July 4, 2019

 


Did King George have a right to rule us? He thought he did at the wise and advanced age of 26, by nothing other than the virtue of the fortunate time and place of his birth. People on the other side of the pond thought differently. They concluded that men should be ruled by consent.

 

This wasn’t a new idea, but it was awfully difficult to pull off when most people were born into lands that already had monarchs, oligarchies, dictators who had armies and weapons. Revolutions were tried, most famously in France, and they were disastrous, causing the death of many, and ended up changing nothing. The early colonies were in an historically unique position, and they were smart enough and motivated enough to take advantage of it.

 

Declaration of Independence: to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, …

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, [end quote]

 

Men need governments or at least governing. God called forth Israel and gave her a leader, lesser leaders as heads of each tribe, and laws.

 

Jefferson, a deist more than he was a Christian, understood that Laws of Nature, not meaning gravity and such, but the natural law of goodness, justice, decency, and morality all came from God. George figured that all that came from him, no matter how whimsical. The truth is that Natural Law is a constant all throughout the history of mankind, and you won’t be all that surprised to find out that everyone more or less believes in it. No country in the history of the world has ever existed where cowards who run away from conflict are heralded as heroes.

 

A man entered the world who did what was right, not because the Law told Him to, but because He was genuinely good.

 

Yet, from the beginning, men have been in the strict business of gaining for themselves wealth, prestige, power, or any of a variety of lusts. Not one of them was genuinely good, though some were better than others. And in every case, they chose independence from God, or His laws when they become very inconvenient.

 

Enter the idols. Idols take on various forms and are touted as gods who have enough power to make things happen for the good of some and the detriment of others. I say touted because they need spokesmen. They don’t actually speak themselves, or move, but marketers or spokesmen are used to say what they can and will do.

 

The idols all had their own laws, sort of like King George, but they weren’t like God’s laws.

 

God’s laws have a heartbeat of justice, love, and mercy. The laws of the idols neglect these, or attempt an imitation.

 

MAT 23:23 "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

 

MAT 23:24 "You blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!

 

Notice that the outward laws are to be performed, but not ever to the neglect of the inward heart of the law.

 

Yet, let’s just say that we could instill good governments and good rulers in every nation and land. Things would vastly improve. The press would find less to yammer about. But the world would still be far less than God’s standard because men, inwardly, would not all be genuinely good within - they would not perform justice, mercy, and faithfulness because they were inwardly constituted just, merciful, and faithful.  

 

There has been only one Man who was constituted just, merciful, and faithful - the Servant of the Lord.

 

The world of man is comparative. We say, “Those were the days,” and we generally feel that things are getting worse and we hope that they’ll get better, though we’ll never admit it if they do.

 

God is not comparative. God has one standard and it is perfect justice, law, and truth. Liberty, to be truly free, means to be made new (body, soul, and spirit) by God.

 

The new creature, qualified for the New Covenant, is genuinely good, possessing a divine seed.

 

That’s a bold statement knowing the behavior of some Christians as well as the history of the behavior of the Christian church, but it is a statement that God proudly makes. Jesus is not ashamed to call us brethren. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he argued that their behavior was way out of line because they were the temple of the living God. When Paul wrote to the Galatians, he argued that their behavior was way out of line because they were adopted sons of God.

 

MAT 5:17 "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

 

MAT 5:18 "For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished.

 

MAT 5:19 "Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

 

MAT 5:20 "For I say to you, that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven.

 

But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

Today is about freedom - freedom from King George, freedom from the flesh, freedom from world systems, freedom from humanly devised institutions, freedom from laws.

 

At first glance, such a freedom would seem to produce lawlessness and chaos, and for the old man it would be just that. Many unregenerate men have done this. They are alone and in groups, thugs, gangs, anarchists, sociopaths who just like to see everything burned, destroyed, and in chaos. Often times they rise to power and wealth and hide their anarchy behind a facade of goodness.

 

But the new man, genuinely good, is free from law because he is like Christ, who performs the goodness because he is godly. The substance of his inner man is light.

 

This is how a man can be free from the law and at the same time beholden to it.

Our righteousness is greater than the keepers of the law because they only did it because the law was over them. We follow the law of God because we are made to be like the One who constructed it. He made a law from His own nature. Doing the things of the law, for Him, is like a human being human - it is God being God.

 

We are made in His image and do the things of the law, not because the law tells us to, but because we are genuinely consisting of holiness.

 

God doesn’t follow the law because the law tells Him He should. That would make the law God and He subordinate, and if that is true, then we need to be worshipping the law and not God. So, Jesus said that He was the Lord of the Sabbath, i.e. the Lord of the Law and the Creator of all things.

 

For this to work, I’ve got to be a new creation, in Christ, holy, righteous, blameless, godly, and ... I’ve got to know what holiness and righteousness are.

 

The born-again creature is immediately holy and he hasn’t much of a clue what holiness is. And, while the law is holy, it cannot show him holiness. He needs the Maker of the law to know holiness. Holiness is the person of Christ. His ignorance can only become cognizance when he comes to know Christ.

 

You can’t know a person unless that person fully opens up to you and reveals all that he is inwardly. Jesus could speak to us from within, but He has chosen to have some of His disciples write it down.

 

For this to work, the last piece is an understanding of the word of God. Of course it has the law in it, because Christ made the law, but there is far more in there. In the word of God is the person of Christ. In the beginning the word was God.

 

We turn to a court scene. The case concerns establishing justice on the earth amongst men. The claimants to this power to establish justice are on one side: idols and their idolaters, and on the other side: The Servant of the Lord. 

 

The Lord calls forth the idols.

 

ISA 41:21 "Present your case," the Lord says.

"Bring forward your strong arguments,"

The King of Jacob says.

 

Hebrew: “Bring forth your strong (idols).” Idols can’t perambulate.

 

“Arguments” is not in the original Hebrew. “Strong” would refer to the idols themselves. It is not to be missed at the beginning that they have to be brought forward, meaning, the idols cannot walk, they need to be transported.

 

ISA 41:22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place;

As for the former events, declare what they were,

That we may consider them, and know their outcome;

Or announce to us what is coming.

 

Can the idols declare what is going to take place? Can they properly interpret what has already occurred in light of the truth in order to properly interpret the present and that which is to come? God reveals here that knowing history in the proper light will enable us to predict some of what is to come.

 

ISA 41:23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward,

That we may know that you are gods;

Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.

 

“Do good or evil” is an idiom that means “do anything/something.” If you can we will see it and fear.

 

Yet, from the idols there is nothing but silence.

 

ISA 41:24 Behold, you are of no account,

And your work amounts to nothing;

He who chooses you is an abomination.

 

“Behold” (look and see) links this line to vv. 29 (the idolaters) and 42:1 (the Servant of the Lord).

 

Does the Lord only predict stuff like a seer and the idols cannot or does the Lord even make it all happen?

 

ISA 41:25 "I have aroused one from the north, and he has come;

From the rising of the sun he will call on My name [proclaim My name through his actions];

And he will come upon rulers as upon mortar,

Even as the potter treads clay."

 

Vs. 25 refers to Cyrus the Great. God calls him His anointed one.

 

He is from the north (Persia) and the east (the rising sun: Babylon). God foretells and makes it happen, and all without altering the self-determination of any man.

 

ISA 45:1 Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed,

Whom I have taken by the right hand,

To subdue nations before him,

And to loose the loins of kings;

To open doors before him so that gates will not be shut:

 

Cyrus will send the captive Jews in Babylon home.

 

The point is that the idols cannot walk or talk. Yet God foretells what is to happen because He makes everything happen.

 

ISA 41:26 Who has declared this from the beginning, that we might know?

Or from former times, that we may say, "He is right!"?

Surely there was no one who declared,

Surely there was no one who proclaimed,

Surely there was no one who heard your words.

 

“Oh yes indeed, there is no voice to hear.”

 

He, the Lord, is right. Each line begins with “surely” (the particle ap) meaning in sequence, “Indeed … Yes indeed … Oh yes indeed.” The third one is the climax - there is no voice to hear.

 

In a world full of idols, Isaiah’s and our own, there is no sound from any of them. The only sounds we hear are from their marketers; Satan, the KOD, and their human ministers.

 

In contrast, the Lord’s voice is heard. Mao said that Christianity was dead in China and that it would never raise its head again. Now China is the fastest growing Christian church in the world. The Soviet government turned their main cathedral in St. Petersburg (St. Isaacs) into a museum in 1931. God was replaced by a Foucault pendulum which shows that the earth rotates. The apparent meaning is that we don’t need God, the earth rotates on its own. Today, the Christian church is also growing in Russia.

 

ISA 41:27 "Formerly I said to Zion, 'Behold, here they are.'

And to Jerusalem, 'I will give a messenger of good news.'

 

To Zion - “watch for them.”

To Jerusalem - “I will give a gospel carrier.”

 

Vs. 29 is the plight of the idolaters.

 

In vv. 28-29 we are reminded that we are in a court case, exposing the hollowness of idols, and now, the plight of their devotees.

 

ISA 41:28 "But when I look, there is no one,

And there is no counselor among them

Who, if I ask, can give an answer.

 

ISA 41:29 "Behold, all of them are false;

Their works are worthless,

Their molten images are wind and emptiness.

 

The idol world is without a sure voice (counselor). It is without a revelation from God.

 

King George and all the other tyrants of history could have saved themselves tons of money, time, and blood if they had only understood this simple principle.

 

Every single person on the planet, in this age of the New Covenant in His blood, could be blessed and free if they understood this simple principle. We all need a counselor. We all need the Counselor.

 

ISA 9:6 For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;

And the government will rest on His shoulders;

And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.

 

ISA 9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,

On the throne of David and over his kingdom,

To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness

From then on and forevermore.

The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.

 

So many men have tried to be the counselor of other men with the knowledge of idols (Satan and the kingdom of darkness).

 

Vs. 24 dealt with the idols and vs. 29 with the idolaters.

 

ISA 42:1 is the remedy - the Servant of the Lord is the answer to the world’s plight.

 

“Behold” (look and see) in vs. 24 (idols), “Behold” is vs. 29 (idolaters), and now “Behold” (My Servant).

 

The Servant steps on to the witness stand.

 

We have nine verses in two parts. In vv. 1-4 the Lord speaks “of” His Servant, describing His task. In vv. 5-9 the Lord speaks “to” His Servant, confirming His task.

 

The Messiah is placed here in contrast, not only to the dumb idols, but the conqueror of 41:25, Cyrus who will crush his enemies like clay. Israel came to think of their Messiah in this way in Jesus’ day, but that was not Him. The Servant of the Lord did not market Himself to the public; told those He healed not to tell anyone; He often retired from crowds; He did not vanquish His enemies. He quietly cared for and faithfully taught the truth to the oppressed, the feeble, the poor, the downtrodden.

 

The Servant of the Lord is like no one else. No one. And yet, He comes in order to make us like Him.

 

MAT 12:14 But the Pharisees went out, and counseled together against Him, as to how they might destroy Him.

 

MAT 12:15 But Jesus, aware of this, withdrew from there. And many followed Him, and He healed them all,

 

MAT 12:16 and warned them not to make Him known,

 

MAT 12:17 in order that what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, might be fulfilled, saying,

 

MAT 12:18 "Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen;

 

The meekness of Christ is in contrast to boisterous mankind. No one is like Him. No king has ever been like Him.

 

Matthew records vv. ISA 42:1-3 as fulfillment of Jesus’ faithfulness in His quiet, unaggressive, unthreatening ministry.

 

This is the first Servant Song in Isaiah.

 

ISA 42:1 "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.

 

The leading idea is justice. Remember that we are in a courtroom where idols are presented in contrast to the Lord’s Servant.

 

Justice summarizes those things that the Lord has already authoritatively settled.

 

Justice is parallel to the law or teaching of truth.

 

ISA 42:4 "He will not be disheartened or crushed,

Until He has established justice in the earth;

And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."

 

The servant brings the truth of God to the world when the idols can’t even walk or speak.

 

ISA 42:1 "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;

My chosen one in whom My soul delights.

I have put My Spirit upon Him;

He will bring forth justice to the nations.

 

“Behold” - as He is brought into the court we are to watch Him as He carries His work to success.

 

He is “My Servant” - Yavah determines to keep Him for Himself.

 

“Whom I uphold” - Yavah grips Him fast.

 

“My chosen one in whom My soul delights” - He is the Lord’s man for the job.

 

“He will bring forth justice to the nations” - all nations; universal justice, meaning that the truth and the truth about God will go forth throughout the earth.

 

“Bring forth” - the nations don’t search for the truth, rather it is brought to them by a revealing agent.

 

Next is His service.

 

ISA 42:2 "He will not cry out or raise His voice,

Nor make His voice heard in the street.

 

ISA 42:3ab "A bruised reed He will not break,

And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;

 

He will be unostentatious and unself-advertising. He will be quiet, unaggressive, unthreatening in His ministry.

 

And, nothing is useless - a bruised reed He will not break. A bruised reed cannot support itself. It is of no importance how the reed became bruised (how the man became weak), only that He is and the Lord does not at all find him useless.

 

Neither is anything too far gone - smouldering wick. Nothing is worthy of being extinguished, no matter how far it has gone.

 

These two “A bruised reed” and “a dimly burning wick” are manifestations of the love of the Servant for all mankind.

 

 

ISA 42:3c He will faithfully bring forth justice.

 

ISA 42:4 "He will not be disheartened or crushed,

Until He has established justice in the earth;

And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."

 

The second mention of justice is in regards to the faithfulness of the Servant to His task and subject. He faithfully brings forth the truth.

 

We read that He will not be disheartened or crushed.

 

Crushed is the same root word as bruised; and smouldering is the same root word as disheartened.

 

He finds Himself under the same pressures as mankind, but it is not that He will be immune to suffering, but that it will not deter Him from faithfulness to His task.

 

He will find adequate inner resources (not disheartened) to deal with outward blows (not crushed) … “until He has established justice (law and truth) on the earth.” He will not only do this for Israel, but for the world.

 

“Coastlands” refers to the earth’s remotest bounds. They (the whole earth to the outermost bounds) “will wait expectantly,” meaning that they will anticipate His coming. Those who have staked their future on what He reveals to them, having been won to His alliance, will wait expectantly for Him.

 

Vv. 5-9: Yavah confirms the Servant’s task.

 

In vs. 5 the Lord is the Creator. In vs. 9 He has the power of prediction. These two things the dumb idols cannot do. His task is in vv. 6-7.

 

ISA 42:5 Thus says God the Lord,

Who created the heavens and stretched them out,

Who spread out the earth and its offspring,

Who gives breath to the people on it,

And spirit to those who walk in it,

 

These words tell us not what His is to do, but what He is not to do. He is the One whose task is so unprecedented that it can only be described in negative terms.

 

There are four participles: created, stretched, spread, and gives.

 

The heavens are at every moment dependent upon the Creator to maintain them. Each breath in every person is dependent on Him. He ceaselessly ministers to every human.

 

The stability of the world around us is due to His faithful hands that constantly hold it in place.

 

It is not the work of the so-called fertility gods of Canaan that brought life and crops, and it is not the genius of fertility science or agricultural science that does it either, but the Lord God who blesses us. A finite earth continues to provide food that perishes for 7.34 billion people as well as the ability to miraculously conceive more and more children. Every breath, every seed, every fetus, every birth, every molecule of oxygen in the air, and a million other things are constantly cared for by the Lord God.

 

Life didn’t find a way to evolve. God gave breath to man (GEN 2:7) and keeps him breathing. Life and the universe are not a wound clock that God started and has let go to run itself down. He constantly intercedes and cares for everything courtesy of His grace.

 

Now we move from creation to Providence in vv. 6-7. 

 

Yavah is the universal life giver. Being such, will He forget His promises to Israel? Hardly. Yet another question arises, “Does He have plans for the whole world or for only a chosen few?”

 

ISA 42:6 "I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness,

I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you,

And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people,

As a light to the nations,

 

Yes, to the world. He will draw the people into a covenant. In 49:8 this promise is specific to Israel, but when it is specific, it doesn’t exclude any other groups unless the Lord says so. A covenant to the people is in context with the “earth” and “coastlands” in vs. 4. Then, “as a light to the nations,” makes it even more clear.

 

The words hold, watch, and appoint all express purpose. The Servant is not called and then left to His own devices. Neither is any of the adopted sons.

 

“I will take hold of your hand” - guidance.

“I will watch over you” - safeguard.

“I will appoint you” - accomplish settled plans.

 

The Servant is led, preserved, and appointed to the completion of His service making Him exactly fitted for His task.

 

He will be light - healing or opening blind eyes.

 

ISA 42:7 To open blind eyes,

To bring out prisoners from the dungeon,

And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.

 

He is the end of restrictions imposed by others - “bring out the prisoners.”

 

He is the transformation of circumstances - “bring out those who dwell in prison darkness.”

 

ISA 42:8 "I am the Lord, that is My name;

I will not give My glory to another,

Nor My praise to graven images.

 

ISA 42:9 "Behold, the former things have come to pass,

Now I declare new things;

Before they spring forth I proclaim them to you."

 

Case closed. The Lord has His own name that He will not share with any other. They pretend to be Him, try to look like Him, claim His authority, but none of them come close to Him.

 

It is the Lord who has declared all the former things, and here He is declaring new things, things which you and I happily enjoy in this age of the beginning of the New Covenant. The new things are the predicted work of the Servant, and they have come to pass as well.

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