Friday, April 18, 2014

Srm John 20:19-31                                                  Apl 6th 2014
I was in a discussion recently with someone about the evidence for the Christian faith,
            and they raised the problem of doubt which they declared was a severe obstacle for the unbeliever
                        and they suggested that because it was an obstacle
                                                            they shouldn’t be held liable for their beliefs. Or lack of belief
That was the gist of our discussion.
What are we to make of that?
Os Guiness his book ‘Doubt’  gives us the definition of it as “being in two minds”
Sarah Blasko song mentions Doubt  - it’s haunting, almost futile but tragic lyrics when seen from a Christian perspective. Her previous album “embraced solitude as a means of self control” her latest album tackles coming to grips with the outside world. Yet it really a search for meaning in action while she starts from the position of saying no one knows why we’re here.
So Doubt is something that is real for so many people.
Doubt has a place doesn’t it?
When we watch television and see a person sawn in two we doubt, we think our senses are deceiving us, because nobody lives cut in half.
At one time we all doubted anybody could run 100 yards in under 10 seconds.
At another time some of us doubted anybody could walk on the moon.
But when we are presented with different kinds of evidence we move on from those doubts or we express unbelief.

{{ Or we sometimes say I don’t doubt my spouse loves me, and there’s no scientific litmus test of their blood to prove it! Science just doesn’t come into it. There’s a different kind of evidence at play.
Or we see a car accident and how it happened and someone else says they doubt it. }}
There’s different standards and different avenues of evidence for different things – legal, scientific relationships, art appreciation.
Josh McDowell wrote a book evidence that demands a verdict and he lays out the historical evidence before you and he began the book to debunk Christianity and yet ended up convinced and transformed. But some still reject it, others still doubt – Why? Because it takes a work of God to convict someone of the truth. Rebellion persists in spite of evidence.

{{ There’s a certain unease about the experience of doubt – many of us we feel we shouldn’t doubt certain things we hear about the Christian faith.   }}
But you know what? Doubt is not a bad thing!

Open you Bibles to John 20 that well known passage about the appearance of Jesus first to the 10 disciples and then a week later to Thomas.
READ John 20:19-31
You all know it so well,
            it is so common to hear it preached on at Easter about the plain evidence of the resurrection of Jesus. How the facts are related by John.
But I want us to understand what John is teaching us about here.
Sure one important facet is the physical resurrection of Jesus – albeit in a body that while Jesus eats and drinks food, he can pass through locked doors and yet be touched.
Ponder what John tells us in verse 19 the disciples that is missing Thomas and of course Judas who killed himself, are meeting behind locked doors – Why? Because of fear of the Jews. They fear the Jews coming for them now that they have killed their leader Jesus.
And Jesus comes and stands among them, and greets them with a common Jewish greeting , but one that packs a punch – Shalom – Peace – for the Jews this alludes to the wellbeing of God’s Kingdom people in His end time Kingdom.
Now had things changed much because of Jesus’ resurrection appearance?
Well a week later they are meeting again, and this time Thomas is with them. And again they are behind locked doors. See verse 26. Again Jesus starts by saying “Peace be with you.” He doesn’t berate them for their lack of trust.
Now this thing about locked doors serves to tell us a few things.
First that importantly it’s exactly the same circumstances as the other 10 had told Thomas had occurred when Jesus appeared to them. So Thomas couldn’t accuse them of fabricating the whole thing. Because here he was and the doors were again locked and Jesus appears.
Secondly it gives clear historical evidence that Jesus’ resurrected body is supernatural as well as physical. He appears with them, passing through a locked door as it were. And yet they can touch his hands and his side. Upon reading this people cannot just flippantly declare it was all a con – they have to deal with a reported supernatural event – they have to decide one way or another, and that means dealing with everything the apostle John writes.  
Indeed though the 10 disciples during the week had been repeatedly saying to Thomas we have seen the Lord – [ elegon – an imperfect tense of repeated action “they kept saying ] he had replied “unless I see the nail marks in his hands [ includes forearm ] and put my finger where the nails were and put my hand into his side I will not believe it”
Now here Thomas so often gets a bad rap, a bad name. He’s called “doubting Thomas” – sure he doubts but why is he singled out when the other 10 had had that very evidence displayed to them a week earlier?
All this should raise questions in your mind  - What is the gospel writer John teaching us here?
Well one very clear historical bit of evidence about the Resurrected Christ not being a con by the other disciples is that it speaks of the mark in Jesus’ side- where the spear had been plunged by the Roman’s to make sure He would die quickly and so his body could be taken down and buried before the Sabbath.
It has been reported historically that during the Roman occupation of Israel that over 1 million people were killed and possibly of those 200,000 were crucified. Now the point is that of the incredible large number crucified very few would have had a spear mark in their side. And yet, specifically Jesus had!
This is what we are told by John about the resurrected Jesus, he doesn’t refer to nail marks in his hands and feet but nail marks in his hands and spear mark in his side!
Look at this picture of Carivaggio ‘The Incredulity of Thomas’ – it’s powerful, and notice the eyes of Jesus towards Thomas – no condemnation there!
What then are we to make of Thomas’ doubt? He was in two minds but he quickly even without touching or seeing the evidence declares Jesus as my Lord and My God. Something that the Jews considered blasphemous to say of a human – but Thomas has no qualms of saying it of Jesus.
To get a grip on Thomas’ doubt you need to see the two other times Thomas is mentioned in John’s Gospel to see his Character
In John 11 :16 When Jesus upon hearing of Lazarus’ decides to go to Judea – the place which by then had become highly dangerous to Jesus, Thomas asserts – lets go also that we may die with him – this is a statement of devotion not of pessimism.
Then in John 14 Jesus is telling the disciples that he is going to prepare a place for them in his Father's house and that they already know the way. "Thomas says to him, 'Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?' Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.'" This isn’t the objector but the eager enquirer, always wanting to understand, the questioner.
He’s not just a thoughtless pessimist
He’s not some hard nosed skeptic.
He is one who is a close friend of Jesus who would do anything for him and has been shattered by Jesus’ death. “So don’t you guys just lead me on”!
But though he has his doubts, they are resolved on seeing Jesus miraculously appear and say to him his very words spoken to the other disciples.
There’s no indication he actually needed to see or touch the wounds.
Instead Jesus challenges him to believe,
Here understand that Jesus didn’t tell him to stop doubting and believe as though doubt is the opposite of belief.
No Jesus said “be not unbelieving but believing”.
That is move from your doubt to belief, not unbelief!
Jesus challenges Thomas to move on from his Doubt.
Now at this point let’s understand very clearly we are not saying that people can intellectually work their way to God based on evidence.
God must work in a persons heart – we are saved by Grace, it’s God’s work, but that isn’t to say God doesn’t use evidence so that the Holy Spirit then convicts the person of the truth.
God has made us in his image, rational thinking people, and God the Holy Spirit uses that to convict us of the truth and bring us to repentance.
So we do not denigrate a persons sincere doubts, but when given reasons or presented with evidence we must reach a point of challenging them to move on and make the right decision. Just as Jesus did with Thomas.
And this leads me to the last point this morning about John’s account of Thomas and Jesus.
Thomas met the resurrected Lord Jesus face to face. He saw and if he had wanted to could have touched the physically resurrected Jesus.
So what about us?
What do we say to those who say things like “Well I’d believe if God came and stood right in front of me”
Two things crucial thing have to be kept at the forefront of our thinking at this point.
Are they sincere doubts?
                        Are the real Questions?
                                    Or are they unwilling to deal with the evidence they are given?
            After all we are told in Luke 16:19-31 that the rich man wanted a resurrected beggar to go back from the dead and warn his family to repent and believe and Abraham says “even if one should rise from the dead they won’t believe
Because we have hardened hearts that need breaking and convicting by the Holy Spirit.
But also and it is the same thought raise in the passage about the rich man and the beggar that occurs here in verses 30 - 31 that they have the Scriptures – that is enough.
The Scriptures are sufficient evidence.
John tell us the same thing in verse 30-31 blessed are those who do not see but believe
The blessedness it is speaking if here isn’t mere happiness, that is depending on happenstance or circumstance but rather it is about being accepted by God.
You can be right with God – and that is by right belief – based on believing the truth about Jesus as Lord and God – a belief that has left doubts about that behind and affirmed that Jesus is Lord and God, convicted by the Holy Spirit who uses the sufficient evidence of Scripture.
And today, that passage in John speaking of Thomas along with his doubts,
 concern the sign,
the ultimate sign of the resurrection of the crucified Jesus.
And the point is that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, 
            - it isn’t a matter of merely believing that as verse 31 tells us,
                        after all, Satan and demons know Jesus is the Christ, the son of God,
            but the point John reminds us that “by believing you may have life in his name”!
The fact it is all about life in its fullness, life in Jesus’ name not merely existing should motivate us to take all this very seriously.
{{ So we are encouraged here by the encounter of Jesus with Thomas, it’s not wrong or bad to have doubts, but when presented with the evidence a decision has to be made.
And with unbelievers, if their questions and doubts are sincere and not just excuses, then it is right we present the evidence, but never feel embarrassed about Scripture it is sufficient for God to use to convict them of the truth and to present life to them. }}
Finally let me end with a quote from Os Guiness: he tells us
‘Oswald Chambers, a Scottish minister in the late 19th and early 20th century, once said, "Doubt is not always a sign that a person is wrong. It may be a sign that they are thinking." But doubt isn’t a good place to settle down. You can’t always be doubting. Eventually you have to come to a decision whether something is true, or not. That’s what happened with Thomas.’
We do well to remind our friends, Christians and unbelievers alike of that. And understand that when it comes to the Christian faith, the Scriptures are Sufficient.

Let’s pray

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Obedience to Christ and law

I recently listened to a talk by J D Hall over at Worldview Weekend. He was speaking about how some object to the call to obedience to the commands of Christ with the rejoinder "but that's law", to which J D replies - no that's worship.
He then makes the telling point "law is doing those things in order to obtain merit or favour with God"
Yet Jesus said "If you love me you will follow my commands".
something worth pondering

In Christ

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

What the rolling debate about homsexuality teaches us

It has shown us that again hermeneutics is central. Indeed it seems clear that people are out to sever God from His Word. And this just reflects Eve in the garden of Eden "Has God said?".

Have a read of Alastair Roberts blog 'Alastair Adversaria' on the course the homosexual debate has run as Chris Seitz laid it out.

God Bless

Monday, February 3, 2014

Blessed and the beatitudes of Matthew 5

Blessed are the merciful 5:7,
Blessed are the poor in Spirit 5:3

The Beatitudes to some are quite confusing for we often take blessed to have the sort of connotation as in "that golfer is surely blessed with sporting abilities", that is there is something innate in them that they are able to perform wondrous feats.

I recently heard a friend mention that the blessedness of the beatitudes are often hard to grapple with when we don't feel blessed, when in fact the circumstances of our lives are anything but enhancing the feeling of being blessed.

Here I think he was on the perimeter of equating blessed with being happy. But happiness depends on happenstance, on the circumstances one finds themselves in. Yet the blessed status of Matthew 5 has nothing to do with outward circumstances. No matter what our circumstances, the inner peace of being right with God is a reality that God declares and affirms.

The tough thing is that in this passage it seems like often blessed is juxtaposed with those things that normally rattle us, that make us uncomfortable, unsettled.

Just look at "blessed are the merciful because they will receive mercy", yet often this is not our daily experience with others is it? or "blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called sons of God" - but who calls them that? often their actions go unnoticed, unappreciated. 

First of all take careful note that in the beatitudes, it isn't that one person is blessed with mercy, another with mourning and another with being peacemakers. No, all these are traits of a person belonging to the Kingdom of God.

These verses tell us that blessed is something quite different to reliance on sweet circumstances. It is the inward contentedness that has nothing to do with external circumstances. That is what God desires for His children and is the possession of the Child of the Kingdom of God. All Christians.

in Christ

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Old Testament Hebrew Poetry, passion and meaning

I recently had a discussion with a friend after church about the meaning of Isaiah 65:17-25 and asked why he took this passage symbolically, and one of his statements was "all of the Old Testament is poetry". Now I can forgive a friend in the midst of a free flowing discussion to use generalities in the heat of the moment, after all, I have at times done this myself. Perhaps he was doing so to draw my attention to something he considered extremely important to deal with. Indeed it has been discussed in the commentaries that about half of the Old Testament is poetry, however to state that fact as many are prone to do doesn't address the point that the text has meaning and it is to some extent understood by the Jews. For the reader of the Old Testament and for the exegete, hermeneutics in relation to Hebrew poetry needs to be carefully addressed.

In this regard the book Biblical Hermeneutics by Milton Terry is extremely helpful as is the thesis by G Buchannan Gray 'Forms of Hebrew Poetry'. Hodder and Stroughton - London MCMXV.

Let me draw attention to what I consider extremely significant in the discussion about Biblical poetry.

Hebrew Poetry is not of the form of Western poetry.
What must first be stated about Hebrew poetry is that is is not of the same character as we find in the West, It does not have the distinguishing mark of word rhyme. Sadly much of Church history has lacked any in depth analysis of Hebrew Poetry. Gray is not wide of the mark when he declares there has been little agreement and little in the way of decisive conclusions regarding this subject. At least the two above authors remedy this to a large extent.
Early on, Origen pointed out that Hebrew meter was measured by the number of accented syllables. Philo likewise stated that Moses was taught rhyme, harmony and meter and yet clarification of these in regard to the Old Testament itself, was lacking. Nowhere did he refer to actual poems attributed to Moses in the Penteteuch as being metrical.
Josephus in speaking of meter at least referred to Biblical passages such as Exodus 15:2, Deut 32.
Speaking of Josephus, Gray points to how one's cultural predisposition effects how you approach a matter pointing out that Josephus was drawn to highlight meter because it was prevalent in Greek poetry, and yet he doesn't think of commenting on parallelism because that "feature" wasn't present in Greek poetry! (Gray pg 17).
This focus on meter at the expense of ignoring parallelism results in a severe crippling of the early discussions on Hebrew poetry.

Later discussions, particularly by Lowth began to rectify this. What Gray and Milton do is help us to better grasp the nature of Hebrew poetry pointing out that parallelism is the significant mark to consider. Others have acknowledged that Hebrew poetry lacks the formal rules of Greek, Arabic and English poetry so we in the West need to carefully take this into account when determining verses to be poetry and determining its corresponding meaning.

Even today Gray says
I have no new theory of Hebrew metre to set forth; and I cannot accept in all its details any theory that others have elaborated. In my judgment some understanding of the laws of Hebrew rhythm has been gained; but much still remains uncertain. and both of these facts need to be constantly borne in mind in determining the text or interpreting the contents of Hebrew poetry.
( intro pg vi )
Yet there is one other mark of Hebrew poetry that is also ignored and many preachers are yet to see the significance of it.
Milton Terry alludes to it when he says
untrammeled by metrical limitations, the Hebrew poet enjoyed a peculiar freedom, and could utter the moving sentiments of passion in a great variety of forms" Terry pg 92.

Another author makes the same point,
Authors wrote as they felt and because they felt, and their strong emotions dictated the forms their words took"
and it's this that adds to the distinction of Hebrew poetry compared to that of the West and Greek and English forms. One must understand the nature of the Hebrew to feel the impact of his form of poetry.

So reflect on this, the Hebrew author at times showed forth a passion that is reflected in the form of his writing.

Our question is does such passion make the text uninspired? No!
Does the form of Hebrew poetry that reflects the authors passion deter the meaning of the text? No
Does it mean that the authors at that point are not inspired? No! Since our Scriptures tell us that the authors of the Scriptures wrote as God moved them with the inference they wrote exactly what God wanted.

Just some reflections
In Christ

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Real Eschatological Hope declared in the barren wasteland of neo orthodoxyy

"Jesus, the victorious hero,
Conquers every foe,
At the feet of Jesus soon,
The whole world shall bow.
Jesus, glorious, out of night
Leads us onward to the light."

Rev Johann Christoph Blumhardt ( 1804 - 1880 )

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Isaiah 49 The Servant Delivers

Isaiah 49 sermon                             Oct 2014

The Servant Delivers

Read Isaiah 49:1-13
Who is or has been our best Prime Minister ?

Australian Federal Government elections were recently held and we have a new Prime minister.
But who is or has been up there as the best?

What of Edmund Barton our first back then in 1901? Who was instrumental in the writing up of our Constitution? Delivered us from being a Colony.
But who have been Great?

Perhaps standing out in Australia is Robert Menzies who planned well ahead past his days in office to bring about the Snowy Mountains Scheme and planned for water and power for future Australians. Deliverance to a secure future.
I can think of some hard working prime ministers- like Kevin Rudd who even got his own staff a bit off side it is reported because of his grueling work ethic

What about the world’s Greatest Treasurer? Paul Keating! Economic deliverance!
If we go overseas we immediately think of Winston Churchill in England. Who rallied England together to fight Hitler and the Nazis. I am told by someone who nursed him later in life that he was a bit of a grouch but then He had to be strong to do what he did.
Military Deliverance.

Many in hindsight almost think of Neville Chamberlain who was prime minister of England before Churchill as a traitor when he tried to appease Hitler just before the invasion of Poland. Perhaps not so great a prime minister then?
If you go back number of years you have the prime minister who legislated against slavery! Charles Grey. Deliverance from Slavery.

Do you know what Prime Minister means? What the words mean?
Look at the dictionary meaning of prime and how it is used!

Is it no wonder that politicians take prime minister to mean first in rank or quality or importance or authority, chief! That says something about them doesn’t it?
But if you look at those two words prime and minister
            even when prime is first in rank or degree, the second word minister means servant!

            We could paraphrase it “the first to serve”
             Or perhaps number one servant.

In Isaiah 49 we come to the second of Isaiah’s servant songs. The first came in Isaiah 42:1-9, which Sean preached last week, and chapter 49:1-13 is the second,Chapter 50:4-11 is the third and the best known Isaiah 53:13-53:12 is the fourth.
Yet the kind of Servant we find here isn’t anything like our Prime Ministers who rule from strength.
We will see today a bit about this Servant and what this means for Israel and what it means for us today.

But let’s put chapter 49 in context, in chapter 48 we read of a guy who is going to do mighty things for Israel. In a nutshell he is going to bring about political deliverance.
He is a political deliverer!

Some theologians have had a big problem with this guy because back in chapter 44 and 45:1 he is named – and named years before his birth!
And for those theological skeptics who struggle with the supernatural and God     knowing in advance this is a big dilemma
                        so they solve their problem by saying that stuff was written later after the return of the exiles to Israel
                        and so they end up with 2 or even three Isaiah’s writing the book Isaiah.

But we aren’t so dumb are we? After all back in Isaiah 9 & 11 we met Isaiah speaking of God become man to save!
Anyway back in Isaiah 44:28: he is named  - Cyrus. He is God’s Shepherd!

This pagan king of the Persians is God’s Shepherd,
Who will beat the Babylonians
            and rule over the Babylonian empire and so rule over the Jews in Exile in Babylon.

I don’t know if you heard what I just said then for this is truly amazing. God chose a pagan king to deliver his people. He not only chose him but 45:1 God says this pagan, this Cyrus is God’s anointed. A King! A messiah  Wow.
And though he delivers the exiles back to the land of Israel he isn’t the king Isaiah has been speaking of during chapters 1-39.

That was a special king – a child born, who is King – Isaiah 9:6-7. Wonderful Councilor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, He will reign on David’s throne, of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end. 
So in the immediate context of chapter 49 of the servant, we hear of Cyrus who will deliver God’s people. He will succeed, there is no question about it. So says God in 48:14-15.

            He is God’s chosen ally,
               He will carry out God’s purpose against Babylon.
           God has called him, brought him and he will succeed in his mission.
            That is what God says.

What a wonderful God we have.
                        One who promises and then fulfills his Word to smallest detail!
But the one we read about in chapter 49, this servant,  is not Cyrus.

Now we are confronted with a different person. He is the servant of the Lord and He speaks just like God does in Isaiah.
            Do you see it there in the very first few words. “Listen to me

            I speak and you listen! Just like in 48:1 44:1
And what’s more this impacts the whole world,
            it isn’t merely for Judah to hear and take notice of,
              it wasn’t just a bit of encouragement for Isaiah himself to hear,
                it’s for all the islands, even the distant nations – it is for all gentiles on this planet.

Here the Servant speaks and so hear what he says about his mission.
The second thing that is significant here is that both these words, listen” and “hear” are the imperfect tense. And that means everyone who reads it  - including us, and those born tomorrow or in a 1000 years, all need to hear this, all need to stop thinking of what they are having for lunch and listen to the Servant!

Verse 1-
Before this servant was born God made mention of his name, and not only that but before he was born the Lord called him!

            It’s not some abstract call as in I have a plan which I have started and I am going to have a servant who is central to it – no – “he is called” means he was already even before birth.
From my birth He - God has made mention of my name
        – Jesus – Luke’s Gospel told God names Him. In Luke 1:31
            the angel told Mary they are to give their child the name Jesus.
                 Because he will save from sin.
           And this name is what Joseph and Mary gave their child as Luke 2:21 states.

Third some have suggested from verse 2 that this servant is a prophet. Yet if we stick with the book of Isaiah and look at chapter 1:20 we see that the sword is an instrument of judgment! And even back there sword and the mouth of the Lord are mentioned together! the point I think Isaiah is getting at is that the servants main instrument of ministry is the Word. He doesn’t come with a sword like Cyrus did. Rather, He speaks.
This is one reason the Servant isn’t Cyrus.
            Cyrus ruled through military might, this servant acts through the spoken word.

And it further says in the shadow of His hand he hid me. Why would the father hide this servant? We see the same notion cropping up in the next verse about God concealing him in His quiver. As a brightly polished arrow God concealed him in his quiver.
What is going on here?

Perhaps that his kingship as mentioned through Isaiah 1-39 esp Isa 9 is concealed.
Better still is to see that until his unveiling

Until the time he began his ministry, when he began preaching and performing miracles, 
his identity is clouded,
     concealed from all.
Then, in verse 4 immediately after telling us this he says “you are my servant Israel in whom I will display my Glory.”

This is a real kick in the teeth for national Israel – they knew God’s covenant with Abraham meant they were to show forth God’s glory to the World to be a light to the nations, but they failed miserably in this over and over again. That reality is confirmed for us in chapter 48:1b. READ it.

            insincerity – “not in truth or righteousness” it’s all a sham.
            And in 48:9 it’s only for God’s own name that he delayed his wrath!

So God is raising up a deliverer,
           a true Servant who will do what Israel the nation had been called to do and failed.
           God does not pussyfoot around,
             He doesn’t say things because like us he likes to hear his own voice.
                  I can’t just pass by the point of this for us Today.
          Today we need to come to grips with this reality.
                Our youth don’t like to be told by their parents that they are disappointed in them.

One of my daughters finds this notion abhorrent.
Yet you need to hear if you are doing the wrong thing,
            I am sure that Miley Cyrus’ father is disappointed in her at the moment!
              And We need to hear it ourselves 
             - that we have disappointed others.
                   It’s not that our parents don’t love us anymore
                     but that our actions are wrong,
                        unrighteous, at times even wicked.

So when we think of where we stand today
          Jesus having died on the Cross for our rebellion,
              and risen again,
                              Then His Words are not to be sniffed at!

Don’t thumb our nose at Jesus – because there are consequences. Just as Israel found out.
But there’s another aspect to what is said here we need to be amazed by.

It says God will give his glory to this Servant.
Rob Corner in our Bible Study when we were doing chapter 42 pointed this out. That back in chapter 42:8 God said he doesn’t give his glory to another, certainly not idols!

And yet here God says of this Servant  ---- I will glorify Him.
           It shouts out to us about the significance and standing of this Servant.
          After all, the expectation is that a servant glorifies his Master, yet here it says God will glorify His Servant.
And as we see from this chapter it should have evoked a question from the Jews over and over again

Who is this servant?
That should be the question these chapters raise in the minds of Isaiah’s hearers,
            As it should arise in our minds.
See how verse 7 of chapter 49 draws us again to ask it. God says “You are my servant Israel”
Just who is this servant?
It is not Cyrus. I think you will agree from what we have seen already in the description of this servant, but it also comes out in vs 5-6 and also in his mission.
It is not Israel the nation – though she was called to be the Servant of the Most High and be a light to the nations.
We need to feel the impact of that,
                        as God’s people, as Israel, heard Isaiah speak of Israel as God’s servant over chapters 40
à 48
            Let me read you a couple
            Turn to 48:20
                  And then again in 44:1
                   And then in 42:19 he speaks of Israel his servant being blind
In 8 chapters à 9 times he reminds Israel they are His servant.
And then in chapter 49 he calls the Servant Israel, and yet it’s clearly not national Israel.
And the servant mentioned here in 49:3 is not the remnant of Israel.
We can see that the servant isn’t national Israel nor the remnant from Verse 5 of chapter 49 – that verse is the clincher. It has to be the Messiah, Jesus, the suffering Servant since he alone is able to bring Jacob back to God, to gather Israel to himself ! 49:5
There is just no way that Israel or a remnant could bring themselves back to God. As someone has said, that’s like trying to lift yourself off the ground by your own shoe lasses.
And the second determinative factor is also mentioned there in verse 6. This servant will bring Salvation to the Gentiles, or as the NKJV says He will be salvation to the Gentiles! This servant is on about Spiritual Deliverance.
So in these verses we have Who the servant is
And at the same time we are told part of his mission.
Now in verse 4 it seems that the servants estimation of the success of that mission,
            the mission to bring Jacob back to God,
                        To gather Israel to Him   à was considered vain. Ineffectual.
But the point Isaiah makes here is that even though from a human point of view,
From that of the servant,
The mission was seen as failure,
Seen from God’s point of view, God’s estimation, its not.
And that is what counts.
What we miss if we read too quickly and don’t study the passage is that even in this verse there is another slap in the face to national Israel.
In verse 4 it speaks of justice ( mishpat ) – where the NIV has the words “due me
But back in Isaiah 40:27-31 Israel, national Israel had the gall to accuse God of disregarding the right or justice of Israel and it was for this reason they had grown faint and lost strength, vs 29,31
But here this servant though having laboured and spent his strength yet he realises his justice is with God, he proclaims his reward is with God.
In other words, there’s no excuses, just trust! 

( 49:4 recalls the complaint of Israel in Isaiah 40:27-31.1 In that text Israel accuses Yahweh of disregarding the "right" or justice (mispa, 40:27) of Israel and for this reason they have grown faint and lost strength (koa, 40:29, 31). In Isaiah 49:4 the prophet-Servant complains to Yahweh, "I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength (koa) for nothing and vanity; yet surely my cause (mispa) is with the LORD, and my reward with my God."
In contrast to this self-evaluation, Yahweh is much more positive in his assessment of his Servant. In other words a parallel is being drawn to the nation Israel with this servant Israel. for one, failure at justice is an excuse used for growing faint and “weary” but for the Servant whose labour seems small, yet will he put his trust in God – who declares the Servant has done no small thing and there will be fruit. One trusts ( the Servant ) the other gives and excuse and wander soff to do their own thing! ( national Israel ) GW )

Though in the servants estimation of failure at that time to bring Israel to God, yet
            God goes even further and says I will add to that mission,
                        not only to gather Israel to him
                                    but make Him to be a light for the Gentiles.
            That was part of the nation Israel’s job from Genesis 12 where God declared promises to Abraham. And yet they failed to live up to What God required.
It is in verse 6 we see how different the deliverance of this servant is from Cyrus and Israel. This servant brings salvation to the gentiles. It is spiritual deliverance, not merely deliverance from exile. It is deliverance from sin and separation from God!
The good news of Salvation from sin, through Jesus is to go out to the ends of the earth, to Gentiles, to all the nations.

And we end with this is what the Lord God says vs 7. To his chosen one, the one – and get this, this is prophetic here, it speaks of the messiah’s rejection by the nation Israel. see in verse 7 “to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation”, the nation there has the definite article, signifying that it is speaking of the Jewish nation. It is singular!
He was abhorred by his own nation. God knows it. He knew it.
And it speaks of active hostility, not passive neglect.
What a tragic sad note.
Yet the Scripture by admitting this reveals the knowledge of God that knows everything. And is in control.
There’s so much here, but today we will end at that verse,
So what about the application for us today?

We have seen the application for Isaiah’s hearers and readers,
   For Israel.
    They needed to see deliverance from exile isn’t enough.
       Return to the promised land wasn’t enough.
         They needed salvation,
           They needed sin dealt with,
     and so the point about Isaiah 49 is that they should ask
     Who is this Servant?
And secondly they need to deal with their sin.
So also for us today the application is ?
   What sort of deliverance have we experienced?
     What do I consider Jesus has delivered me from?
     If I think this servant only brought economic deliverance
       Or deliverance from being destitute – from adversity.
         Or deliverance from bad health
          Or deliverance from loneliness.
               From being an outsider, so now I belong to a group.
     Did I become a Christian merely to feel happiness?
       To be delivered from boredom?
What was it for you?
Because IF it wasn’t deliverance from sin and being made right with God the Creator
              THEN if it’s not that, then you won’t bother to live how God says!
            BUT what God says matters!
              Israel learnt that to its detriment!
But a second thing to learn here today is about making excuses for our inaction.
Israel made excuses for not doing as God said, but Isaiah 49 points out the Servant Israel, though he thought his mission had been ineffectual, still He would Trust God.
            My reward is with my God.
              That’s the attitude we need to take.
He calls us to care for one another, pray for one another, to encourage one another,
    To grow in the Lord Jesus Christ,
To be transformed by the renewing of our mind, instead of having our minds filled with television programs we need to fill it with the word of God and that means taking up the bible and really grappling with it.
Let’s Pray