Why Obey the Voice of the Lord

 

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.

Abram's Counsel to Sarai, c. 1896-1902, by James Tissot (click to enlarge)

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, “and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob” (Exod 2:24). When Jesus told them that his True Word will set them free, the Jews protested, using Abraham’s name, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone” (John 8:33) Even when Peter preached to the Jews, “For the promise is for you and for your children” (Acts 2:39), God’s covenant with Abraham was on his mind, “And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant” (Gen 17:7). God’s covenant promises to Abraham were also in Paul’s mind when he assures Gentiles of their inheritance, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (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, “Look to Abraham your father” (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 50:10–11 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, “trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Or, second, if they “equip [themselves] with burning torches” and “walk by the light of [their own] fire,” i.e., if they put their trust on their own resources, “they shall lie down in torment” 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, “Listen to me!” or “Give attention to me!” 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.

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