We all need to draw closer to Jesus. Anyone disagree? God gave his prophet Isaiah remarkable revelations for us. The section immediately preceding our study speaks of God's people as His servant and we may study that. But let's start with Jesus. Over the next weeks I hope you will join me in looking at 15 verses, Isaiah 52:13 through Isaiah 53:12. Let's have a closer look now at this morning's segment, Isaiah 52:13-15.
Hear these verses:
Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high. Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men; so shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider.
Before the crown is the cross. Jesus is going to come down for us but then be exalted.
God is all wise; Jesus will come. Any of the three could have. God the Father could have. God the Holy Spirit could have. But in infinite counsel together, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit determined Jesus would be the one; Jesus would be that person of the Godhead to serve in this capacity. Jesus would take a human body and fulfill necessities for the kingdom in man's behalf.
There might have been many ways to approach this undertaking. But I am convinced that for God to get to the universe He wants, there are certain non-negotiable components. You have to have free persons. You have to have right and wrong, a moral universe. People have to have free choice; they have to be able to discern between what is good and what is evil. And try this: this free choice can never be removed. Were there ever a time when free choice was removed, you would have a useless universe populated by robots. What would be proven? What would be gained? What would worship be worth?i What would consciousness be worth?
In that kind of setting, there could be no worship. An unfree being cannot worship; he cannot choose; he cannot be moral. He cannot do right and cannot do wrong.
To give free beings existence and liberty in a moral setting is a finely-grained operation. You have to get it just exactly right. "Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently." Who can read the gospels and not say Jesus was the very example of wisdom and prudence? How He dealt with Lucifer's rebellion in heaven, Adam and Eve's rebellion on earth, and our situation all the way down here at the end of the age is incredible. When we think of those things we have to say He is very prudent indeed!
Jesus will come down, mightily down, to save us. But He will after be exalted.
Think about this with me. Turn to Philippians two in your Bibles.
In Philippians two comes the remarkable command to us, "Let this mind be in you that was also in Christ Jesus." Far from an awful and gloomy and hopeless command, that word should send tremors of joy down your spine. Imagine being invited to be more like Jesus! That is exactly the invitation. Philippians 2:5-13:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond-servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus was, for lack of a better description, in the form of God. He was God in His being, in His person. This He laid aside. Still God He laid aside certain of His powers of divinity. He came down to our helpless, even damaged state. And in a humanity so much like our own, He lived as a man and did not sin. In the power of the Holy Spirit daily He resisted every incitement to selfishness, and continued all pure. He never chose to sin.
What then? Then He died on the cross for us. He took our sins, in which He had no part, and gave us His righteousness in which we had no part. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 instructs, "He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
He said "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do" (Luke 23:34), and died on the cross embracing all who would receive Him. For this extraordinary self-sacrificial act, the Father exalted Him. How much? He "highly exalted Him and gave Him a name that is above every other name." And is there any other name, even on fallen planet earth, any other, so exalted as the name of Jesus? No sir. But God is just getting started. Wait until in heaven we hear Jesus exalted by all the sinless host!
His Visage Marred
But we said that before exaltation is suffering and humiliation. Remember Isaiah. "Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men."
Jesus went to great lengths for you and I, not once, but many times. Think not only of the cross, nailed to a cross at your ankles and wrists, having to pull yourself up to take a breath, the extreme agony and torture just to get one gulp of air. But also He was innocent, and you guilty. I was guilty; He was innocent. Breath after breath, hours through the day, and before that, beaten and tortured, His back absolutely ripped open, a crown of thorns smashed into His forehead. Sweating, stinking, bleeding, dying, spat upon, tortured, dehumanized, laughed at, assaulted by demons. That alone would make Him look a disastrous spectacle.
But go back before that. Back, to the beginning of His human ministry, when the Holy Spirit no less, drove Him into the wilderness where He would be tested. And for forty days and nights He is alone with the wild beasts. No Taco Bells, no convenience stores, no gardens, no eggplants or watermelons or anything. How would that be for you? After one day you would be thinking constantly about food. After four days moaning and crying out. Jesus did not eat forty days. He would be an emaciated wreck, mere skin and bones. That is the very limit of human endurance. And that before Satan appeared to tempt Him to make stones to bread.
Also, Jesus was not fasting in an air-conditioned room somewhere with nurses standing by. He was far out in the wilderness in hot days and cold nights. Israel's terrain is mostly mountainous.
Jesus' stress was more than bodily. Physical stress was the least of what was upon Him. The psychological pressure of His, in His innocence, bearing our guilt, was by far the greater stress. Jesus carried our sicknesses, bore our sicknesses with Him, bore the curse for our sins with Him while He was in the wilderness. Because of His victory there, you can overcome here. We will speak at greater length of this in another presentation.
The main thing to keep in our hearts here, is Jesus undertook this whole experience, not at random, but so that humans could be saved.
Popular thinking today supposes that humans are getting better and better, we are advancing, improving, evolving, getting smarter, more advanced technologically. The truth is the opposite. Men are getting worse and worse. The farther away from Eden, the worse we become. Each passing generation is just a bit further removed from our original creation heights. Friends, it is not that the curve is going up, up, and up, better, better, and better as we near the end, but it is going down, down, down, ever more sharply downward as we near the end.
All these secular schemes to improve man and improve ourselves by technological advance, are wrongheaded. What we are increasingly adept at is killing each other; that is not cultural advancement. Jesus, after experiencing wilderness temptations, and a life of ministry, violent beatings and finally crucifixion, was marred more than anyone. And all this because He loved you.
Sprinkle Many Nations
Our passage continues thus:
"So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider."
The word for "sprinkle" here has also been translated "startle" in some translations. The Septuagint--the second century BC translation of Isaiah to the Greek language, comes out this way for verse 15 in L.C.L. Brenton' English translation: "Thus shall many nations wonder at Him; and kings shall keep their mouths shut. For they to whom no report was brought concerning him, shall see; and they who have not heard, shall consider."
Do human kings care about the God of heaven? Is Jesus such a figure? I suggest yes. Let's support that with Bible data.
First, human leaders generally and almost universally seem to oppose God. Psalm 2:2: "The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed."
So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: 'Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is within them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: 'Why do the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.'
Pharoah rebelled against God, saying, "Who is the Lord, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go? I do not know the Lord, nor will I let Israel go." (Exodus 5:2). In Revelation 16:13-14: "And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty." Mostly, the devils are successful in gathering human leaders against God. So it seems as though human leaders of governments always refuse to hear God.
But there are exceptions! There are kings and people in high places of government and authority who choose to hear Him.
Nebuchadnezzar King of Babylon at first resisted the God of heaven, but Daniel chapter four records his humbled affirmation, "I Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, all of whose works are truth, and His ways justice. And those who walk in pride He is able to put down" (Daniel 4:37). Herod listened to God's prophet, at least for a time, Mark 6:20. Pilate's wife warned him that Jesus was innocent and not to harm Him (Matthew 27:19). In Philippians 4:22 Paul tells us that there were believers in Christ in Caesar's household. There are kings in the book of Genesis who also respected God. We should not be surprised that human rulers mostly seem to be in rebellion against God. But His arm is not shortened. All rulers hear of Him, and some surrender their hearts.
Of course they will hear about Jesus. We know from Bible prophecy that God will have a people who resist the power of kings and government leaders. Rulers will especially sanction God's people so that they cannot buy or sell if they refuse to obey dictates of state. Read Revelation 13. But while we will submit to demands which do not contradict the freedoms necessary to worship God, we will resist state demands which are government impositions against our liberty to worship according to the dictates of our conscience.
Even now we are perilously close to such developments. We need to pray that God will stay the four winds, that He will hold back the tide, and give us a reprieve, a bit more time to do His work before He permits the hand of state authority to close against the faithful.
God is protecting His people. He is bringing us onto the stage of world power to be His witnesses. Now, we don't know how long, we still have opportunity to give our hearts to Jesus our sin-bearer. We have reviewed the words of God's prophet Isaiah. He reminded us that Jesus, His suffering servant, would behave very wisely in His dealings with sin. His face, His form, would be marred under torture physical and mental, more than ever we will experience. His death on the cross for us, His life of loving self-sacrifice for us, will not be lost to the halls of history but require kings and rulers make a final choice to respect and honor God or bully the populations under their control.
Sometimes it seems no one is interested, no one is listening. It seems evolution and other dehumanizing theories and plans have taken over the world, and that the whole civilization has been swallowed up in entertainment and secular politics. Don't be fooled. Christ is alive and Christianity is alive. The final showdown between good and evil hastens to the wrap up. Satan is preparing his army right now. God is preparing His army right now.
In God's army, Jesus is our sin-bearer. He is our captain, our general, our commander, our hope-giver. He suffered for us. Jesus is coming soon! Join me in determination, that through His help, we will be His right and ready witnesses. In a world that hates Him, still we must love them. Through Jesus we will. God will have His trophies, hearts for eternity, every heart who wants to be like Him.
Next sabbath come with me and go deeper at Isaiah 53:1-3.
I can't wait!
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