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Category Archives: Isaiah

Finding Comfort in a Crisis

Where do you turn for comfort when the crisis hits? What do you rely on when the lightning strikes? Comfort food? Alcohol or drugs to deaden the pain? A favorite recliner in front of a fireplace? Curl up on the couch with a flannel blanket and your dog or cat? Seek answers from a doctor or pastor?

Isaiah 40 is written to a nation in distress. The northern kingdom of Israel has been sent into exile by Assyria. The southern kingdom of Judah will soon be captured and deported by Babylon. The people worry that God has forgotten them.

God tells the prophet Isaiah to comfort the people with a message of hope and deliverance. By application, we can find comfort in knowing that God is in control and that he provides the right kind of help just when we need it the most. God’s promises help us to live with hope.

Find comfort in knowing that God promises to deliver his people from distress (1-11). God begins his message of comfort by letting the people know he has forgiven their sins (1-2). While their punishment is just, it is also complete. They are to prepare themselves to receive God’s presence and see his glory (3-5). They can take comfort in knowing that while life is short, God and his promises are dependable (6-8). God will come to shepherd his people with strength and compassion (9-11). All of the gospel writers saw these verses fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist and of Jesus.

Find comfort in knowing that there is no power greater than God (12-20). God is all powerful and all knowing (12-14). He did not need the advice or counsel of anyone when he spoke the universe into existence. God is greater than the combined power of the nations of the world (15-17). There is not enough lumber or animals in the nation of Lebanon to offer an acceptable sacrifice to God. Even idols and the craftsmen who make them pale in comparison to the wisdom and power of God (18-20).

Find comfort in knowing that God is in control of the heavens and the earth (21-26). Isaiah asks a series of rhetorical questions to demonstrate that God rules over the universe (21-23). In comparison, people are like grasshoppers and world leaders amount to nothing. God is superior to all (24-26). In a mind-numbing concept, God knows the number and the name of the countless billions and trillions of stars.

Find comfort in knowing that God watches over his people and strengthens them with hope (27-31). If God knows the names of the stars, why do you think he has forgotten your name or location? Isaiah asks that question to explain that God is all knowing and all powerful (27-28). When we are exhausted, discouraged, and downhearted, God meets us where we are and renews our strength (29-31).

Adding all these ideas together, we can take comfort in knowing that God comes to us as we are, where we are, in the wilderness and desert of our lives. He provides the strength we need when we need it most. Our task is to encourage others with the message of God’s comfort.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church online on May 3, 2020. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Finding Comfort in a Crisis – Isaiah 40:1-31 – Video sermon

The video begins with a five-minute countdown followed by a song. The message starts at 9 minutes. It is followed by a testimony and another closing song. Enjoy!

 

Finding Comfort

 

Good Friday Reflection Service

Here is the video from our Good Friday Reflection Service last night.

 

Reflections on Isaiah 52:13-53:12

These are the thoughts I shared last night during our Good Friday Reflection Service. Focusing on Isaiah’s portrait of the suffering servant prepared us to partake of communion, or the Lord’s Table. (The Scripture is taken from the New Living Translation.)

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Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12 paints a prophetic portrait of the Messiah as the suffering servant. Through five stanzas of three verses each, the prophet describes the inconspicuous, unappreciated servant of the Lord who will suffer and die for the sins of the people.

This is perhaps the best-known section in the Book of Isaiah. It is widely quoted in the New Testament. Most of the passage concerns the suffering and rejection of the Servant, but the main point is that his suffering will lead to exaltation and glory. This passage is at the heart of the gospel message.

Stanza 1: Exaltation – Though unrecognized, the Messiah will be successful (52:13-15)

13 See, my servant will prosper; he will be highly exalted. 14 But many were amazed when they saw him. His face was so disfigured he seemed hardly human, and from his appearance, one would scarcely know he was a man. 15 And he will startle many nations. Kings will stand speechless in his presence. For they will see what they had not been told; they will understand what they had not heard about.

Isaiah directs our attention to the servant of the Lord. He says that the servant will act wisely, doing what the Lord wants him to do. As a result, the servant will be highly exalted.

By human standards, Jesus was not attractive when he was on the earth. During his trial and crucifixion, he became so disfigured that people were repulsed by his appearance. The first thing we notice about the crucified savior is that he looks, well, crucified. Yet, it was his extreme suffering that gave him the power to cleanse us from our sins.

In response, people will be struck dumb. They will stand in silent awe, in slack jawed amazement.

Stanza 2: Rejection – Though unimaginable, the Messiah was rejected (53:1‑3)

Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm? My servant grew up in the Lord’s presence like a tender green shoot, like a root in dry ground. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care.

So few people will believe the message about the servant. So few will acknowledge the message as having come from God. The responses move beyond simple astonishment to outright rejection.

There is nothing about his appearance that would automatically attract a following. Jesus did not have Hollywood leading-man good looks.

People might say pleasant and complimentary things about Christ. They will praise his ethics and his teaching. They will proclaim him a good man and a prophet. They will say he has the answers to the problems of society. They will not, however, acknowledge that they are sinners and deserve punishment, and that Christ’s death satisfied the justice of God and reconciled us to God. Today, the servant is despised and rejected, and we do not value him at all.

Stanza 3: Redemption – Though we deserved the punishment, the Messiah took it on himself (53:4-6)

Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins! But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all.

The servant is characterized by griefs and sorrows, but not his own. God was not punishing him. Instead, he was bearing the consequences of our sin.

The essence of sin is going your own way, rather than God’s way. The tendency of sheep is to follow others, even to their own destruction. As human beings, we are no better than sheep.

We are no longer without a shepherd, for the shepherd has given his life for the sheep, namely, you and me.

Stanza 4: Rejection – Though innocent, the Messiah silently submitted to suffering (53:7-9)

He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave.

Sheep are submissive when being sheared or slaughtered. That is the picture of Jesus as he quietly submitted to his death because he knew it would benefit those who would believe. Though oppressed and afflicted, he went along without a sound. His death was not a capitulation to weakness but an exercise in deliberate control. He was not overpowered. He chose not to fight back.

If his life ended with the grave, his heroism would have been admirable but futile. The empty tomb proved that there was more to his death than anyone realized.

Stanza 5: Exaltation – Though the Messiah’s death appeared a tragedy, it was part of God’s plan and would result in victory (53:10-12)

10 But it was the Lord’s good plan to crush him and cause him grief. Yet when his life is made an offering for sin, he will have many descendants. He will enjoy a long life, and the Lord’s good plan will prosper in his hands. 11 When he sees all that is accomplished by his anguish, he will be satisfied. And because of his experience, my righteous servant will make it possible for many to be counted righteous, for he will bear all their sins. 12 I will give him the honors of a victorious soldier, because he exposed himself to death. He was counted among the rebels. He bore the sins of many and interceded for rebels.

The suffering and death of the servant was clearly God’s will. None of this was accidental, it was all intended. His suffering was a guilt offering, but not for his own sins, but for those of the people. Still, God made him prosper.

His suffering led to life. Because his substitutionary work was completed, he now can justify those who believe. He bore our punishment so we would not have to die. Because of his sacrifice, he can now make many righteous.

While Isaiah does not identify the servant in his prophecy, we who know Jesus as savior know that all of these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Jesus took our sins on himself and made full atonement for them. While we were yet sinners, he died for us. He himself knew no sin, but suffered, the just for the unjust, that we, sinners, might become righteous before God.

 

God brings comfort to those in distress – Isaiah 40:1-11

I am beginning a 4-week study on Zoom on Wednesday evenings on Isaiah 40. The chapter describes the comfort that God brings his people, especially in times of distress. Here’s the outline I sent to those who signed up for the study. Click on the link to download a pdf copy of the outline.

Words of Comfort: Deliverance is Coming

Isaiah 40:1-11

In Isaiah 40, God sends a message of comfort to those in distress

1-11     Deliverance is coming—God is coming to shepherd his people

12-26   God is majestic

12-20   There is no power stronger than God

21-26   God is in control of the heavens and earth

27-31   God watches over his people and strengthens those without hope

Take comfort in knowing that God forgives your sins (1-2)

While in exile in Babylon, Israel felt defeated, bitter, and disillusioned

God sent a message of comfort and hope

God’s compassionate forgiveness is an act of divine grace that brings comfort to his people

Prepare yourself to receive God’s presence (3-5)

Each Gospel writer saw John the Baptist as the one calling Israel back to God

God comes to us as we are, where we are, in the wilderness and desert of our lives

He wants us to get ready to receive him, because right now we aren’t ready

God’s glory will be revealed to the whole world

Life is short, but God is dependable (6-8)

Like grass and wild flowers, people are temporary

God never fails for his word endures forever

Knowing that God keeps his promises brings comfort to us during times of difficulty

Jesus is the shepherd who delivers his people (9-11)

God is pictured as a tender shepherd who carefully carries and leads the weak and helpless members of his flock

God’s arm is a mighty arm for winning the battle; it is also a loving arm for carrying his weary lambs

We are to shout the good news to everyone around us

Principles to Practice

Comfort others with the message of forgiveness

Remove any barrier that prevents someone from seeing God’s glory

Tell your friends that God can be trusted

Shout the good news about Jesus to those around you

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2020 in Bible Study, Isaiah

 
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Celebrate the Son!

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2018 in Christmas, Isaiah, Scripture

 

Christmas Brings a Savior who Died for our Sins

Christmas is a study in contrasts. The light of the world shines in a world of deep darkness. A child born in obscurity who will reign over all. A message of hope announced to outcasts on the fringe of society. Perhaps the most shocking contrast is that the child was born to die. The manger sits in the shadow of the cross.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 points a prophetic portrait of the Messiah as the suffering servant. Through five stanzas of three verses each, the prophet describes the inconspicuous, unappreciated servant of the Lord who will suffer and die for the sins of the world. Stanzas one and five speak of his exaltation, two and four address his rejection, and stanza three highlights the redemption he provides.

This is perhaps the best-known section in the book of Isaiah. It is widely quoted in the New Testament. Most of the passage concerns the suffering and rejection of the Messiah, but the main point is that his suffering will lead to exaltation and glory. The passage is at the heart of the gospel message.

Stanza 1: Exaltation—Though unrecognized, the Messiah will be successful (52:13-15).

The servant will act wisely in accomplishing his mission on the earth. As a result, he will be highly exalted.

By earthly standards, Jesus was not attractive when he was on earth. During his trial and crucifixion, he became so disfigured that people were repulsed by his appearance. Yet it was his extreme suffering that gave him the power to cleanse us from our sins.

In response, people will be struck dumb. They will stand in slack-jawed amazement.

Stanza 2: Rejection—Though unimaginable, the Messiah was rejected (53:1-3).

So few people will believe the message about the servant. So few will acknowledge the message as coming from God. The responses will move from simple astonishment to outright rejection.

People might say pleasant and complimentary things about Jesus. They will praise his ethics and his teaching. They will proclaim him a good man and a prophet. They will say he has the answers to the problems of society. However, they will not acknowledge that they are sinners and deserve punishment, and that Christ’s death satisfied the justice of God and reconciled us to God.

Stanza 3: Redemption—Though we deserved the punishment, the Messiah took it on himself (53:4-6).

The servant is characterized by grief and sorrow, but they are not his own. God was not punishing him. Instead, he was bearing the consequences of our sin.

The essence of sin is going your own way, rather than God’s way. The tendency of sheep is to follow others, even to their own destruction. Humans are no better.

We are fortunate that we have a shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, namely you and me.

Stanza 4: Rejection—Though innocent, the Messiah silently submitted to suffering (53:7-9).

Sheep are submissive when being sheared or slaughtered. That is the picture of Jesus as he quietly submitted to his death because he knew it would benefit those who would believe in him.

If his life ended with the grave, his heroism would have been admirable but futile. The empty tomb proved that there was more to his death than anyone realized.

Stanza 5: Exaltation—Though the Messiah’s death appeared a tragedy, it was part of God’s plan and would result in victory (53:10-12).

The suffering and death of the servant was clearly God’s will. None of this was accidental, it was all intended. His suffering was a guilt offering, but not for his own sins, but for those of the people. Still, God made him prosper.

His suffering led to life. Because his substitutionary work was completed, he now can justify those who believe. His bore our punishment so we would not have to die. Because of his sacrifice, he can now make many righteous.

Isaiah gives us a multi-faceted portrait of the message of Christmas. Jesus Christ is the child who brings hope to the world (9:1-7). Jesus is the king who will establish a kingdom of justice and peace (11:1-16). Jesus is the shepherd who delivers his people (40:1-11). Jesus is the savior who died for our sins (52:13-53:12).

Celebrating Christmas is as easy as A-B-C. Admit you are a sinner. Believe the gospel that Christ paid the penalty for your sins. Receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

Give thanks for the Savior who was born in Bethlehem and who died that you might be forgiven. Celebrate the Son!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 23, 2018. It is part of a series on The Message of Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

Christmas brings a King who will establish Justice

When we come to the story of Christmas, our eyes are drawn to the baby in the manger. Many of our favorite Christmas carols focus on baby Jesus—“Away in a manger,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Silent Night,” “What Child is this?” and “Sweet little Jesus boy,” to just name a few. Occasionally, we might reflect that the manger sits in the shadow of the cross and remember that Jesus came to die for the sins of the world. On even fewer occasions do we recall that Jesus is the righteous ruler who will establish a kingdom of justice and peace.

During the season of advent, our church, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, is examining several of the prophecies in Isaiah. In 9:1-7, we read the divine birth announcement, “It’s a boy!” We discovered that Jesus Christ brings light, joy, peace, and hope to our lives. In 11:1-16, we read a royal announcement, “It’s a king!” We learn that Jesus Christ will establish a kingdom of justice and peace.

In Isaiah 10, God brings judgment on Israel (3-4), Samaria and Judah (11-12), and Assyria (33-34). God’s judgment is like a logger clear cutting a stand of trees. Nothing is left standing. But from a small, inconspicuous stump sprouts a shoot that grows into a spectacularly fruitful tree (11:1). From the humble family of Jesse will come not only King David but Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

As the righteous ruler, Jesus Christ is empowered by the Holy Spirit (11:2). Isaiah pictures what will take place at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:9-11). The Spirit provided him with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, and knowledge and the fear of the Lord.

When we hear the word, fear, we think of intimidation, terror, or trepidation. Surprisingly, Isaiah says that the Messiah will take great pleasure in fearing God (11:3). He will have a sense of awe and wonder at who God is. When we fear the Lord, we will respond with awe, trust, obedience, and worship.

A healthy sense of the fear of the Lord will lead to righteous judgment (11:3-5). Jesus will not be swayed by popularity, persuasive arguments, public opinion polls, or bribes. He will judge with righteousness and fairness. The weak will not fear oppression. The guilty will not escape punishment. The righteous ruler will be a just judge.

Isaiah pictures a kingdom of peace established by the coming ruler (11:6-9a). The Messiah will not only change the social order, he will also reestablish nature as it was intended to be. Predators and prey will coexist together in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

In the same way that water covers the oceans, so the earth will be filled with the knowledge of God (11:9b). Rather than merely knowing about God, people will live out the truth in obedience.

In what will look like a second exodus, the Messiah will regather his people from the ends of the earth (11:10-16).

As I reflected on this passage, I took away several principles.

You are never too small or insignificant to do something great for God. I may feel like I have nothing to offer. But who knows, I might raise the next great world leader or disciple the next evangelist.

If Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish God’s purpose, how much more do I need his power? I desperately need wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, and knowledge that can only come from God.

Take delight in knowing and fearing God. Rather than checking off my list that I read the Bible, I should take great pleasure in getting to know God better. Instead of treating him with casual indifference, I should maintain a healthy fear of God.

Trust God to be a just judge. I don’t need to take matters into my own hands and seek revenge. God will settle the account in due time. He will be just, fair, and righteous.

Enjoy the peace of God. God can not only break down the barriers, but he can pour out an abundant blessing.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 9, 2018. It is part of a series on The Message of Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.

 

The Message of Christmas: Redemption

Christmas is a study in contrasts. The light of the world shines in a world of deep darkness. A child born in obscurity who will reign over all. A message of hope announced to outcasts on the fringe of society. Perhaps the most shocking contrast is that the child was born to die. The manger sits in the shadow of the cross.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 points a prophetic portrait of the Messiah as the suffering servant. Through five stanzas of three verses each, the prophet describes the inconspicuous, unappreciated servant of the Lord who will suffer and die for the sins of the world. Stanzas one and five speak of his exaltation, two and four address his rejection, and stanza three highlights the redemption he provides.

This is perhaps the best-known section in the book of Isaiah. It is widely quoted in the New Testament. Most of the passage concerns the suffering and rejection of the Messiah, but the main point is that his suffering will lead to exaltation and glory. The passage is at the heart of the gospel message.

Stanza 1: Exaltation—Though unrecognized, the Messiah will be successful (52:13-15).

The servant will act wisely in accomplishing his mission on the earth. As a result, he will be highly exalted.

By earthly standards, Jesus was not attractive when he was on earth. During his trial and crucifixion, he became so disfigured that people will repulsed by his appearance. Yet it was his extreme suffering that gave him the power to cleanse us from our sins.

In response, people will be struck dumb. They will stand in slack-jawed amazement.

Stanza 2: Rejection—Though unimaginable, the Messiah was rejected (53:1-3).

So few people will believe the message about the servant. So few will acknowledge the message as coming from God. The responses will move from simple astonishment to outright rejection.

People might say pleasant and complimentary things about Jesus. They will praise his ethics and his teaching. They will proclaim him a good man and a prophet. They will say he has the answers to the problems of society. However, they will not acknowledge that they are sinners and deserve punishment, and that Christ’s death satisfied the justice of God and reconciled us to God.

Stanza 3: Redemption—Though we deserved the punishment, the Messiah took it on himself (53:4-6).

The servant is characterized by grief and sorrow, but they are not his own. God was not punishing him. Instead, he was bearing the consequences of our sin.

The essence of sin is going your own way, rather than God’s way. The tendency of sheep is to follow others, even to their own destruction. Humans are no better.

We are fortunate that we have a shepherd who gave his life for the sheep, namely you and me.

Stanza 4: Rejection—Though innocent, the Messiah silently submitted to suffering (53:7-9).

Sheep are submissive when being sheared or slaughtered. That is the picture of Jesus as he quietly submitted to his death because he knew it would benefit those who would believe in him.

If his life ended with the grave, his heroism would have been admirable but futile. The empty tomb proved that there was more to his death than anyone realized.

Stanza 5: Exaltation—Though the Messiah’s death appeared a tragedy, it was part of God’s plan and would result in victory (53:10-12).

The suffering and death of the servant was clearly God’s will. None of this was accidental, it was all intended. His suffering was a guilt offering, but not for his own sins, but for those of the people. Still, God made him prosper.

His suffering led to life. Because his substitutionary work was completed, he now can justify those who believe. His bore our punishment so we would not have to die. Because of his sacrifice, he can now make many righteous.

Isaiah gives us a multi-faceted portrait of the message of Christmas. Jesus Christ is the child who brings hope to the world (9:1-7). Jesus is the king who will establish a kingdom of justice and peace (11:1-16). Jesus is the shepherd who delivers his people (40:1-11). Jesus is the savior who died for our sins (52:13-53:12).

Celebrating Christmas is as easy as A-B-C. Admit you are a sinner. Believe the gospel that Christ paid the penalty for your sins. receive Christ as Savior and Lord.

Give thanks for the Savior who was born in Bethlehem and who died that you might be forgiven. Celebrate the Son!

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church in Chicopee, MA, on December 21, 2014. It is part of a series on The Message of Christmas. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.