Readings: Isaiah 50:10-51:8 (text), 51:17-23; John 15:18-27, 16:32-33
November 6, 2011
Why do we have such high regard and fond memories of our grandparents? It is not just because they shower their grandkids with all kinds of presents and attention, and they end up being spoiled. But most of all, it is their love for the grandkids that we all remember so well.
In Scriptures, we read about Israelites always remembering their father Abraham when they think of the past, and of God fulfilling his covenant promises to them because of his promises to Abraham the father of their nation. When the Israelites groaned as slaves in Egypt, God heard their cries, â€œand God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacobâ€ (Exod 2:24). When Jesus told them that his True Word will set them free, the Jews protested, using Abraham’s name, â€œWe are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33) Even when Peter preached to the Jews, â€œFor the promise is for you and for your childrenâ€ (Acts 2:39), God’s covenant with Abraham was on his mind, â€œAnd I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenantâ€ (Gen 17:7). God’s covenant promises to Abraham were also in Paul’s mind when he assures Gentiles of their inheritance, â€œAnd if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promiseâ€ (Gal 3:29).
It is this remembrance of God’s faithfulness to Abraham that Isaiah reminds Israel when they again would become hopeless slaves in a foreign nation, this time in Babylon, â€œLook to Abraham your fatherâ€ (Isa 51:2). Previously, in Chapter 50, Isaiah tells us of the Servant of the Lord who will listen to the Lord, and suffer greatly in order to sustain his weary people (Isa 50:4-9).
In turn, the people of God for whom the Servant suffers are called to listen to and obey the voice of the Lord. It is the Servant himself who would give them listening ears so they would be able to obey, and thus be forever redeemed from sin and God’s wrath.
Isaiah 50:10â€“11 introduces the next chapter by asking God’s people to respond to the call for obedience to the voice of the Servant. First, even in the darkness of life, â€œtrust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.â€ Or, second, if they â€œequip [themselves] with burning torchesâ€ and â€œwalk by the light of [their own] fire,â€ i.e., if they put their trust on their own resources, â€œthey shall lie down in tormentâ€ forever.
Israel has had a history of disobedience from their wilderness wanderings through the reign of their kings, so why should they obey the voice of the Lord now? Isaiah 51:1-8 gives them three reasons why, all starting with, â€œListen to me!â€ or â€œGive attention to me!â€ First, in verses 1-3, the Lord’s past calling and blessings on their forefathers testify to his faithfulness and righteousness. Second, verses 4-6 assure them of redemption from their present sinfulness, a redemption that will spread from Israel to the Gentile nations. Third, verses 7-8 guarantee them of the Lord’s vindication, just as the Suffering Servant will be eternally vindicated.
Read the complete sermon here.