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Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Light of Christ Anglican Church
The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar,October 18, 2015

The Foretelling and the Fulfillment

Text: Isaiah 53:4-12

Whenever we hear this passage we read this morning from Isaiah Chapter 53, we know exactly whom it is talking about. There is no question that this is describing Jesus, the Savior, whom God in His love sent to redeem the world from sin and death. As I was poring over this passage this week, I counted fifteen very specific things it tells us that apply to Jesus and to no one else.

  1. He carried our sorrows. (4)
  2. He suffered grievously. (5)
  3. He was killed in a violent way. (5, 8)
  4. He was unjustly condemned. (8)
  5. He himself was innocent. There was deceit or violence in Him. (9)
  6. It was our sins that were laid upon Him. (5)
  7. He suffered without complaint or self-defense. (7)
  8. He died in shame and would have been buried with the wicked. (9)
  9. But He was placed in a rich man’s tomb. (9)
  10. Verse 10 tells us it was God’s will that He should suffer these things.
  11. He was a guilt offering from God. (10)
  12. By His wounds we are healed. (5)
  13. By His righteousness, many are justified. (11)
  14. Verse 11 tells us He came back to life.
  15. He intercedes for transgressors.(12)

What is so amazing about all this? You would expect the Bible to describe Jesus in all this detail. He is the main character in the Bible. One of God’s principal purposes for giving us the Bible is for us to meet Jesus, up close and personal. But what is so amazing about Isaiah’s description of Jesus is that it was written 700 years before the fact! In Chapters 42-54, we have a series of revelations of things to come, in which God foretells the coming of the Savior. We call them the “servant songs.” They describe the Savior seven centuries before He came, and God reveals Him to be a humble servant. As Jesus Himself said, “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

As we consider this ancient prophecy, I would like to address three questions:

1.Why did God choose to redeem the world in this particular way?

2.What does this tell us about God’s love?

3.Why did God choose to tell us about Jesus 700 years before He came?

Why did God choose to redeem the world this particular way? Asking such a question is risky business. After all, who are we to search the mind of God? As God said to Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundations? Tell me if you understand.” (Job 38:4)

But we can discern some answers from what we know about God and about the way the world has responded to Him.

I have to say, first of all, that God chose this unexpected way of redeeming the world because He is God. He is sovereign. He is far above us in His thoughts and ways. And so, there is no other way to save the world. God is doing it His way, which is the only way. The fact that it surprises us simply demonstrates how superior God is to us, His creatures.

We know that God must punish sin. He is holy, pure and righteous. He cannot allow evil, corruption, and sin to persist forever. And He is just; so He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. Therefore, there has to be a reckoning and a cleansing.

But God loves the world He has made. He loves the people He has created. We are His joy. He intends that we will love Him and enjoy His presence and glorify Him forever. So He has refrained from what may look to us like the easy solution: wiping us all out and starting over.

God also knows that we cannot redeem ourselves. Much as we may desire to be good, much as we may talk about perfecting ourselves and perfecting the world, it is not in us. God’s Word is clear:

• The Book of Romans tells us: As it is written: "There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one." [Romans 3:10-12]

• The prophet Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” [Jeremiah 17:9]

We can see that in human history, and in our present moment in history. People have tried many different forms of government, which they have said would bring peace and prosperity and justice. And every one of them has been infiltrated by sin.

• Monarchy always begins with the king who is supposed to be a good person who cares about his subjects. And yet, it always turns out that the king and his cronies become rich and well-fed, while the peasants are hungry and miserable.

• Marxism was supposed to solve all the problems of mankind by turning over the means of production to the masses. And yet, every socialist society has ended up with a group of rich and well-fed people in the ruling circles, while the masses are hungry and miserable.

• Democracy is our hope in this country for a just, peaceful and prosperous society. And yet, we still have the power elite, and we still have the poor. And, with claims of liberty and justice for all, our democracy is turning away from God’s will on one moral issue after another.

• So along come the secular humanists, who say we don’t need God: we can perfect ourselves. If we are better educated and more generous with each other, we will evolve into a just, peaceful and prosperous race of beings. That idea was dead on arrival, because it excludes God.

Sin is sin, and evil is evil. And people will never redeem themselves. And so God’s plan of redemption is to do for us what we cannot do. That is what the Good News is. That is the Gospel:

That God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son into the world to die on a cross on our behalf. He bore the punishment that we should have suffered. By His sacrificial death, we were given a new life. And then He rose again from the grave to seal the deal and to demonstrate that no power can defeat Him. He made this salvation available to everyone who believes in Him and embraces Him as our Savior.

And the true beauty of this plan is that it glorifies God. What an amazing God, who would do such a thing. What amazing grace. What amazing love.

That is the second question I pose today: What does God’s redemptive plan tell us about His love? Well, it tells us that God’s love is inexhaustible. He has put up with so much for so long from those whom He loves. His patience and forbearance show us that He has an inexhaustible storehouse of love.

God’s plan of redemption tells us that His love is indomitable. It persists, even when He does not get a loving response from us. God is love, and His love cannot be cut off by our rejection or our hardness of heart.

God’s love is humble. His solution to our problem of sin and death does not come from an edict delivered from on high. It is delivered and carried out in person, in our midst, by God’s son, born in a stable and hung on a cross to die as a common criminal. The Bible celebrates God’s humility in Philippians, where it tells us:

[Jesus,] who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! [Philippians 2:6–8]

So God’s love is not only humble, but it is self-giving. He sacrificed His own Son. He laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5) It is by His wounds we are healed. (Ibid) It is by His righteousness that many are justified. (Isaiah 53:11)

What a mighty God we serve! What beautiful love He has for us, indomitable, inexhaustible, humble, self-giving love. How can we not love Him in return?

My final question today is, Why did God choose to describe Jesus 700 years before He came. To ask this is to ask, Why is there prophecy in the Bible? The Bible is full of prophecy. In fact, some scholars have said that 30% of the Bible is prophecy. Many places in the Bible foretell a future that had not come yet when it was written. God obviously wants us to know what He is going to do. He doesn’t often tell us in minute detail. In fact, sometimes, His prophecies are downright mysterious. But He tells us enough that if we listen with our hearts and prepare with our will, we will be ready when He brings these things to pass.

We parents do the same thing when we sit our children down for a chat before they go off to the first day of school or when they go away to college, or when they are getting married. We want them not to be surprised by the things that ordinarily happen. We don’t want them to be overwhelmed. We want them to be prepared.

Or it’s like a contractor who has a talk with you before construction begins on your new church building. He tells you how he expects things to go, and what has to happen in what sequence. And he tells you about the things that can slow you down or make you change your plans, so that when these things come up, you are as prepared as possible.

And just so, God told the Hebrew people 700 years before the Savior came what kind of Savior He would be. God wanted them to be ready in several respects:

First, God wanted them to recognize the Savior when He came. He would not be the same kind of savior they might otherwise imagine. He would not be a powerful general with armies and weaponry and a heart for conquest. He would be a lowly, self-giving servant, whose sacrifice would bring freedom and truth and grace.

Second, God wanted them to know what kind of Savior He was sending so that they could prepare themselves. To be the people of a servant savior is a very different thing than to be the people of an Alexander the Great, or a Napoleon, or an Abu Bakr al Baghdadi.

Third, God wanted the Hebrew people to know that this Savior would be a Savior for all mankind. In the servant song in Isaiah chapter 42, God said,

... "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth." [Isaiah 42:6]

Fourth, God’s prophecy is a demonstration of the trustworthiness of His Word. When we see things come to pass that He has told us to expect, we are reassured that His Word is the truth.

Unfortunately, the prophecy of the suffering servant must have been widely ignored, misunderstood or dismissed. When Jesus came in the fullness of time, few recognized that He was the Savior, few were prepared to follow Him, and only a handful of disciples treated Him as the Son of God.

My question for us today is, are we listening to what God is saying to us about our future? God has revealed a great deal to us about the end times. Some of it is quite mysterious. And He specifically says no one knows when Jesus will come again. But He definitely has told us He wants us to expect what is going to happen. He has warned us of the evil that is coming, and the deception and the upheaval and the collapse of civilization and false messiahs and prophets. If we ignore or misunderstand or dismiss God’s revelation about the future, the impact on our lives will be devastating.

• Will we appreciate the absolute importance of keeping ourselves clean from the cultural decline that the Bible tells us is coming? (Matthew 24:9–14)

• Will we know enough not to accept the mark of the beast? (Revelation 13:16; 16:2, 19:20)

• Will we be able to ride the storm without losing our trust in God? Remember Jesus’ chilling question: “When the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

We can be confident that all these things will happen as God intends. Are we ready?

I pray that your hope is firmly planted in God. We can trust His Word. And we can trust His indomitable, inexhaustible, humble and self-giving love. There is no hope in human institutions. But God’s Word never fails. And His Word tells us,

.... If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? [Romans 8:31–32]

© 2015 The Rev. Jeffrey O. Cerar

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