The result of the mission of the Servant of the Lord

DSCN0110Isaiah 42:3c, 4b

The Servant established justice. Jesus the Messiah acts in a big theater of operations: “on earth”. For nearly 1800 years, it looked like Jesus was only at work in western Asia, Europe, North America, and northern Africa for a time. Then suddenly, he started to shine his light in other places for about the next 200 years. Now, all around the world people from every tribe and language are coming to the Lord and Savior, Jesus. We live in great days of the progress of the mission. We need to abandon our local, provincial interests and praise the Lord for what he is doing in the world today. Certainly, the darkness is dark, but the true Light is shining and more and more people have received the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6). We should shake off the gloom and get involved in Jesus’ mission, as the early apostles did (Acts 5:41-42; 13:46-52).

Christ told Peter that he would build his church (Mt 16:18). This prophecy expresses that same certainty. His justice will be brought to earth, because God’s appointed goal is to make a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1-2; 22:1-5) to share with his new creation people.

The Servant of the Lord established hope. The idea of the Hebrew word is “to wait” or “to hope”. The word can mean either. Here I think the second is better because of Matthew’s use of hope in his use of the Septuagint (LXX) translation of Isaiah (Matthew 12:21). The islands, the most remote places of the earth, will have hope or confident expectation. The eternal inheritance his people share in him provides them with a certain basis to expect much more than they could have in this world that is destined to pass away. Let us live as people with an eternal destiny ought to live. To be specific, this means that we will need to invest time in setting our thoughts on things above. Reread and meditate on Colossians 3:1-4. This requires us to meditate on what we have in Christ, including what we will surely have in heaven. We must strengthen your heart with these things!

The basis of this is the Servant’s instruction (torah). One of the great truths of the Gospels is that Jesus is the great Prophet or Teacher. His instruction becomes a crucial part of our hope, which restructures our world and life view. We now are to think of ourselves, our lives, and our share eternity with the living God in conformity with Christ’s instruction. Since he is the fulfillment of the old torah, his new torah, given through him and his apostles and prophets by the Holy Spirit becomes our torah. He is God’s final revelation (Hebrews 1:1-2); he is the Word or Message. His instruction about God’s saving reign becomes the basis for our hope. He has revealed the Father (John 17:6-8). Believing his message is the way to life (John 5:24). To believe his instruction means the difference between eternal wisdom and eternal foolishness (Matthew 7:24-27). Don’t be foolish! Let’s build our lives on Christ and his instruction!

Grace and peace, David

How the Servant of the Lord Served


Isaiah 42:3c-4a

He served faithfully. The Hebrew word used here presents the idea of certainty and dependability. It is used of God’s nature (Exodus 34:6), God’s words (Psalm 119:142), and his rescue and protection of his people (Psalm 91:40). Here it points out that Jesus the Servant of the Lord is faithful to the mission that God the Father gave him. At the end of his earthly ministry he could say that he had completed the work that the Father had given him to do (John 17:4). He faithfully obeyed God by always doing what pleased him, and by being the perfect and final sacrifice for sin. In the same way, Christ will be faithful to his people (2 Timothy 2:11-13).

He endured in the work God gave him to do. He provided his strength for the neediness of the people. The words translated “grow weak” and be “discouraged” in verse four pick up words that are translated “bruised” and “smoldering” in verse three. Though the Servant would have to face the same pressures as his people, he triumphed where we fail. We can see this at various points in the Gospels. Jesus sleeps in the boat while his disciples are filled with fear (Mark 4:38). Jesus has compassion on the crowds when the disciples wanted to send them away (Mark 6:34, 36). Jesus cast out a demon when the disciples couldn’t (Mark 9:25-29). Jesus welcomed the children when the disciples wouldn’t (Mark 10:13-16). Jesus prayed while the disciples slept (Mark 14:32-41). And he conquered the devil and temptation while we often fail (Hebrews 4:15).

He persisted in the face of difficulties. One of the biggest failings all of us have is to become discouraged, depressed, and to quit or want to quit in the face of hardship and opposition. Jesus kept on when the people of his hometown tried to throw him down a cliff (Luke 4:29), when the Jewish religious leaders became critical (Luke 5:21-26), and when all the people of an area asked him to leave (Luke 8:37). Jesus would not quit when people laughed at him (Luke 8:53), when the Samaritans wouldn’t welcome him (Luke 9:53), and when Jerusalem rejected him as king (Luke 13:34). He persevered when only one man said thank you (Luke 17:17), when a prospective convert walked away (Luke 18:23), and when he saw his Father’s house turned into a den of robbers (Luke 19:46). Most of all he endured while he was mocked, beaten, spit on, scourged, crucified, and forsaken by all. Praise God, the Lord Jesus did not grow weak or become discouraged! His love and obedience were so great that he endured all to save us!

This is an excellent time to bow and to ask the victorious Jesus to save you. If you are saved, say “Thank you, Jesus!” We have a strong Savior who sticks with us and who will carry out his work in us (Philippians 1:6). Approach your life situation today with faith in him. Make Christ’s way of serving the Lord part of the way in which you look at your life. “Yes, this ____________ is happening to me, but the Lord Jesus is faithful, endures, and persists in his grace to me.”

Grace and peace, David

Jesus and the Nations


Isaiah 42:1-4

Every builder of houses knows that a building must rest on a firm foundation. If the foundation is defective, the house will eventually have other structural problems that will lead to an inevitable collapse. In the same way, every local church must be built on the Lord Jesus Christ. Read the words of the apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 3:9-11). For this reason, every gathering of believers in Christ and individual members of these assemblies (local churches) need to pay careful attention to these words of God about Jesus Christ. Even more, all need to focus on Jesus the Messiah as God encourages. In this text, God the Father lifts up the Son and calls everyone to look at his Son, who is his Servant. He tells us that his Servant is his Chosen One, that he delights in him, and that he has put his Spirit on him. Next, let us listen carefully to the mission or task that the Father sent his Servant to accomplish.

God assigned a task to the Servant of the Lord (42:1d). It was to “bring justice to the nations”.

What is the meaning of “justice”? Certain words are difficult to translate from one language to another. The Hebrew word for justice is more comprehensive than our English word. Every word must be translated in its context with other words. This is what can make word studies very dangerous, especially when they try to tell the meaning of a word from its supposed roots. Use word study tools, including concordances cautiously.

In the general context, Isaiah uses the word “justice” three ways:

  • God’s order in creation (40:14). God made everything according to his own counsel and wisdom.
  • In 40:27, it speaks of the judgment or legal decision that God’s people expect when they present their situation to the Lord. They expect the Lord to bring his holy order into their lives.
  • The Lord invites the nations to come to him for a hearing about who is in charge of history (41:1). In this meaning, the Lord asserts his rule over all, and his people can trust him (41:8-10). When the Lord’s justice comes, people live in peace.

What is very surprising in our text is that the Servant of the Lord will bring the Lord’s justice or order to the nations. All might seem chaotic as Cyrus and his Persian armies conquer many nations (41:2-3). But Cyrus and his empire was not the goal of history; instead, the Servant and his accomplished mission will be mankind’s ultimate destiny.

God had a purpose in this mission. This text is part of the unfolding of the story of God’s glory in Christ. Think of a paper road map or a trail map for hiking in parks. As you hold it in your hand neatly folded, you can’t see much of the trail or road system. But as you unfold it, you can find the way to your destination. God gradually unfolds his plan in the Scriptures, but he has one great eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11). Our text is part of the unfolding plan, which God increasingly made clear (Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 2:7-9; 117:1-2) until the Lord Jesus accomplished eternal redemption and his apostles explained it in the New Testament Scriptures.

All this leads to the new humanity that God would bring about in Christ and his people (Ephesians 2:11-16).

We need to keep God’s plan before us. God’s “unfolded map” has been given to us, so that we won’t lose our way in the foggy times of our lives. We need to keep the whole map before our eyes, so that we might know our place in God’s story. You see, we can become much to focused on our small situations. Yes, you have your sins to fight, your pain to endure, your calling (job, career) to fulfill, and your family and friends to love. But there ought to be more to your and my interests than the immediate situations we are in. We are here for God’s purposes, and so we need to look at the whole unfolded map and consider everything God is doing. Doing this helps us see the greatness of the Lord Jesus, and how we are to labor with him toward his goals. Since Christ will bring justice to the nations, and we are in him, we are to participate in this purpose. What are your group, your church, and you doing?

Grace and peace, David

Christ’s Goal for His People

Isaiah 42:3a-b

IMG_0022The Lord Christ brings us from weakness to strength. Bruised reeds become flourishing olive trees in the house of the Lord (Psalm 52:8) and fruitful branches connected to the true vine bearing fruit (John 15). Smoldering wicks become the light of the world (Matthew 5:14) as we carry his light to the nations for their salvation (Acts 13:47). Even more, we shine like stars in the sky (Philippians 2:15). The Lord wants us to understand his purposes for us, and to lay hold of his strength to live them. He does not want you to waste your life as a smoldering wick. He expects us to be a town on the hill that can’t be hidden (Matthew 5:15-16). This purpose requires us to get out of depressed cave and to go out together onto the hills of this world (John 17:18). Each gathering of believers is to be making plans and carrying them out concerning what hills they will shine with their light. For example, plan a gathering like a game and movie night and invite people from outside your group to join you. But this will require winsome boldness!

The Lord Messiah makes us more than conquerors (Romans 8:37).   Notice very, very carefully that this does not mean that Christians live in some imaginary bubble of protection that keeps us from problems and suffering! Not at all! Read the context of this verse (8:18-39). There are many enemies and painful, stress-filled situations that we must live through. Conquerors conquer on a battlefield.

Yet, we are hyper-conquerors through Christ who loved us. Our total conquest happens through him.  One day Christ’s bride will stand triumphant with him, beautifully dressed and shining with the glory of the Lord and reigning with him forever in peace and joy (Revelation 21-22)! Each former bruised reed and smoldering wick will be part of that eternal city where the living God floods it with his pure, satisfying light. You might appear to be a bruised reed or a smoldering wick now, but look at your destiny. You actually are more than a conqueror. So then, let us together go out bravely into the battlefield of this world, trusting in the power of his love. Live boldly for the glory of the Lord. But you can only reach this goal if Jesus Christ is your Savior and Lord. Come to him, having a real change of mind about God, yourself, sin, and Christ, and have sincere faith in Christ alone.

Grace and peace, David

Christ’s wisdom toward his people

Isaiah 42:3a-b

339F7E5D-E1FC-4656-9B5F-C83B1A206C4A (2)We must face what we are, instead of puffing ourselves up in pride. Sadly, we fail to live up to our heavenly calling (Colossians 3:1-4). (I write this not to beat anyone down, but to help us all live in reality rather than in some type of spiritual fantasyland. We must sense our ongoing need of Christ and the gospel at the same time as we trust in Christ and the gospel and enjoy the glorious position we have in him.)

Few things are as worthless as bruised reeds and smoldering wicks. A reed growing near marshes is rather useless and a bruised reed can’t support anything. A smoldering wick is too far gone and almost ready to go out. Though we ought to be walking in the Spirit and joy and light, these words often are an apt description of Christ’s people. Many are weak and damaged by sin. Very few Christians escape the stumbling walk caused by entangling sins (Hebrews 12:1). Though some rejoice in salvation, they moan over their wicked past, not seeming to trust fully that the good news means that all their sins are forgiven. Others were victims of abuse, and the memories of that abuse mar their view of themselves and their hope. How many have been through severe conflicts in the church, and are afraid to love Christ’s people again! And far too many have been taught false doctrine and their lives are constantly ravaged by the falsehoods that they have consumed. And what can we say about those whose minds are overcome by a wrong delight in one part of the truth, so much so that their lives are a hideous caricature of true Christian living?

The good news of these verses is that Jesus does not break bruised reeds. Nor does he put out smoldering wicks. Are you bruised? Be encouraged. Jesus is the Great Physician. Expose your wounds to him. Never fear to go to your Mediator, because he is not only your friend, but also your brother and husband (Sibbes, Works, Vol. 1, p. 46). Remember that peace and joy are two main fruits of his saving reign (Rm 14:17). Are you smoldering? Look at him, for he is the Light, and remember that you are in him!

Think of the tender care that Jesus has toward us. If you are observant, you can see how all these words about Christ are about what he would not do. We ought to most certainly understand these negatives, but they should also lead us to think toward the positive aspects of his ministry. In other words, it is a kind of litotes, which is a figure of speech using understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by the negative of its contrary (e.g., “you won’t be sorry”, meaning “you’ll be glad”). Think of Romans 1:16. Certainly, Paul was not ashamed of the gospel, but the intent was to communicate his joyful confidence in it.

The Lord Christ goes with us into situations where we learn to trust him. One man in the Gospels said to Jesus, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean” (Matthew 8:2). Another said, “If you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22). One questioned his power and the other his desire, but he graciously healed in both cases. Another time, Jesus saw the Twelve in trouble out on Galilee during the night. What did he do? He walked out on the lake, let Peter go for a short walk with him on the water, rescued him, and then he calmed the wind.

He sends us out into the world, as he did the Twelve and the Seventy, where we can see his saving power at work. When we come back rejoicing, he instructs us about how to rejoice more properly. He makes the weak strong.

He teaches us about the extensiveness of his grace, when we become narrow-minded and idle. Think of how he tenderly taught Peter to reach out to non-Jewish people when he was avoiding them (Ac 10:1-42).

He leads people gently from sexual immorality to honor, by telling them through the Scriptures about his call of grace and the gift of the Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:1-8). Although the Lord wants us to bear much fruit, he knows that branches need to be tended to in order to become fully productive. He knows that “a few grapes will show that the plant is a vine and not a thorn” (Sibbes, p. 58). For this reason, he leads us by his Spirit in faith, hope and love that we might become more fruitful.

What new fruit is the Lord producing in your life now? In other words, how is Jesus making you smile with the joy of increasing holiness? Respond to his kindness toward you!

Grace and peace, David

Jesus and His People

Isaiah 42:2-3b

One of the tactics of the malicious enemy of our souls is to tempt people to have wrong, terrible, hateful thougBEDCD5DD-D15C-4075-AF41-32050BFF4B28hts about God. This surrounds us daily. How often we hear people cursing God for the problems of life. Even Job’s wife told him to “Curse God and die” during their grief and his pain. True Christians can enter into this temptation. When things are going our way, it is easy to say, “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise will be continually in my mouth!” However, when events run contrary to us, it is easy to fall to the temptation to start pouting or murmuring or complaining. Some Christians go around with the uneasy feeling that, in spite of John 3:16; Galatians 2:20 and other verses, God really doesn’t like them. And so they start to strive harder to do religious stuff to try to persuade God to have a kinder disposition toward them. Or falling into spiritual depression, some cozy up to a slavish fear of God, while they wait for God to “get them”. And there are other pitfalls such Christians can fall into during this miserable condition.

The way out of such spiritual muck is to listen by faith to what the Lord says about himself in his word. God the Father here encourages us to look to his Son and Servant, the Messiah. He is the One we need to fix our thoughts on. He is the Lord who can rescue us!

The Holy Spirit tells us of character of Christ’s public ministry during his first coming (Isaiah 42:2). This certainly is important to lay hold of, because Jesus gave a constant revelation about who God is (John 14:7-11). This is also a reason to persevere in reading the Four Gospels, because you and I cannot see with our physical eyes the life of Jesus. We must read about him in the Bible. (I wish someone had explained this to me when I was a new Christian. It might have helped keep me from much senseless doubt, fear and grief.)

Jesus did not act like an earthly conqueror. Most human leaders make it a point to push their fame, their agenda, and their power on those under their authority. This especially happens when they want their religion to be the law of the land. Verbal, legal, economic, social and physical abuses are all tools of the worldly conqueror to enforce their agenda. Think of what Nebuchadnezzar did to the Hebrews and what the Roman Caesars did to the early Christians. Think of how many followers of Christ are persecuted today because of their stand for the risen Lord Jesus. But our Savior did not do that when he came. Instead, he went around doing good and healing all who were under the tyranny of the devil (Acts 10:38), and he preached and taught about God’s saving reign.

There is probably no distinction between the verbs listed, but “the intention is to create a cumulative emphasis on a quiet, unaggressive, unthreatening ministry” (Motyer). And so Jesus healed the Roman centurion’s servant and comforted a weeping widow whose only son had died and raised him to life. Jesus spoke tenderly to a sinful woman, when Simon the Pharisee condemned her. He took time to heal and reassure another woman, while on the way to raise a young girl from death’s clutches. He protected Mary from Martha’s harsh words and later from the cruel remarks of Judas and the other disciples. He became the friends of tax collectors and sinners, while other religious leaders despised them. Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath, when others would have gladly left her suffer. And he had mercy on a blind beggar, when others were rebuking him and telling him to be quiet. Jesus was strong to deliver, but ministered in peace and calmness. This is the Savior we need. He doesn’t push us down in the dust to grovel before him, but he lifts us up to give us life and liberty and laughter!

Jesus did act with love, as in our previous examples. He still acts with love, because he is always the same (Hebrews 13:8). He died to save us, though we were powerless, ungodly, sinful, enemies of God (Romans 5:6-9). He saved us, though we were not righteous, when we didn’t understand or seek God, when we turned away and became worthless, when our words were filled with deadly poison, deceit, lies, cursing, and bitterness, while our ways were marked by malice, ruin, misery, and unrest, and even while we had no fear of God (Romans 3:10-18).

Christ receives, forgives, and restores us, even when we are disobedient children (1 John 1:9-2:2). He is glad to call us his bride, though we act like whores at times. Yes, whore is not too strong a word for anyone would pay the world to be ravished by its pleasures when they ought to be enjoying life with the Lord of glory. Yet, he welcomes us back and even goes out to find us. “Amazing love, how can it be, that you my God would die for me?” Worship the Lord for his overflowing grace! “Hallelujah! What a Savior who can take a poor lost sinner, lift him from the miry clay and set him free! I will ever tell the story, shouting, “Glory, glory, glory!” Hallelujah! Jesus ransomed me” (Julia H. Johnston).

Grace and peace, David

“And God said… and God saw”

These are words of continuation. These are the words in
the first book of the Bible, Genesis. God included them in the account of creation, over and over again. He imageswanted us to know, and the way many of us learn is by repetition.

Do I know these words? I have read them since I was a child.  I was reading them again on the very first morning of 2016 when I read the words, “let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens.” It caused a mental picture to return to me.

On Christmas Eve, Dave and I were on our way to Fort Dix, NJ to visit a man in prison. The breeze was strong and approximately 500 sea gulls were enjoying the currents in the air all around us. It felt like we were in a giant snow globe! It was a beautiful moment; one in which I had to capture in my mind.

Today it all came back as I read the words in God’s story of creation. He said, “Let the birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the heavens”, and my mind went to many other times when birds made me stop and acknowledge God. Many birds are creatures of beauty, and one of those beautiful birds made a stop to our tree last winter as I was shoveling snow from the sidewalk. Within feet sat a pileated woodpecker trying to find grubs, pecking the wood while I circled him to get pictures. His red head on top of his big black and white body against the backdrop of the winter snow was gorgeous. His knocking went on far after I went inside. Later on I went out to see 3 holes in the trunk where he had been looking for food. I hoped he found something. God takes care of His creatures and I thanked Him for allowing me to see such a bird in my yard!

Traveling up the Chesapeake on a birthday cruise later on in August, for my cousin’s wife, Vickie, we spotted an osprey and little chicks high on a pole in the water. There was a mother raising her little ones alone in the middle of the river! Later on that very same day we saw an eagle sitting high in the pines eyeing us as our boat left waves in the water.

Whether it is in the cawing of crows in a field at Tyler, the flash of a blue jay, the sweet song of robins outside my window, or the chirping of sparrows in a nearby bush, they all seem happy in their praise to God who created them. I stood at the door of Bonnie’s house, where I teach a chapter from the book of Romans on Wednesdays, and listened to a whole flock of birds gathering food at the base of a blooming cherry tree! “It doesn’t seem like winter this year”, I spoke aloud. “God thank you for giving us beauty!”

So it is on Scripture our minds can meditate and on God’s magnificent creation in our daily routines. After all, God said, “it was good”!

Joy and peace, Sharon