First the promise: READ Is. 52:13. He will be raised up. He will be resurrected. He will be exalted. This is the Easter message! A promise is a vision of an amazing future. I love the quote in the bulletin: “If you're a Christian you're just a shadow of your future self.” (N.T. Wright). God has given a promise of a glorious future.
Promises are the substance of hope, expectation. God’s promise is resurrection ~ the best is yet to come. The power of a promise changes lives because of optimistic expectations. The greatest promise of all is resurrection: new life, new hope.
God is the ultimate promise keeper, which is why there are so many stories of his character, his sovereignty, his power, his love, his consistency… He makes promises that he binds himself to keep and bring to fulfillment/completion. Without promises we have no expectation…. I live today in great hope because of the transformational promises of God and the Resurrection life that is ours through Jesus Christ. First comes the promise.
The images of Is. 53:1-9 enlarge Is. 52:14. Jesus went through the trial of the cross when he took upon himself the punishment for sin that we deserved. Jesus suffered and was rejected.
A few days ago I was alone in the church working on a project, I went into the kitchen and saw a familiar person walking around the corner of the building. I sat with him many times over the past 2-3 years. He wanders in and out of town so I never know when he’ll be here. I quickly opened the door and called his name. He was obviously in a sour mood. Shockingly, he flipped me off and kept walking. I don’t hold anything against him, just shocked.
How tiny of a rejection that is compared to the rejection Christ endured. When he went to the cross it was as if we flipped him off. He was abandoned by almost all who knew him. His disciples. The crowds. Rejected. Trials always follow promises. Hope is tested. Endurance is required to see promises come to fulfillment. READ Is. 52:14. I believe Isaiah is describing Jesus on the cross, disfigured, a mess, broken, bleeding, nobody to be proud of at that moment.
In the gospels, when the story of the crucifixion is told, the night before he died, Jesus prayed to God, “If it be possible, take this cup from me” (Luke 22:42). I do not believe Jesus could possibly mean he was trying to get God to change his mind about the cross ~ the cross was the focus of his life. What he meant: “if it be possible take the cup of death from me, in other words, bring me back to life.” When Jesus died, (Jesus, who in the great mystery of the trinity is God himself) when Jesus died he died. God died. Jesus placed his life entirely in the hands of God ~ his trust is based entirely on the promise of God: “See my servant will be raised and lifted up” if it be possible take this cup from me, may your promises come true God as I go through the trial of the cross, as I suffer the punishment of sin for the people who you love…” WHEN you are going through your own trials, trust in God’s promises. The pattern is to go through trials in order to receive fulfillment/abundance/ new life!
In Is. 53:1-9, over and over again the trial of the cross is described. These visually descriptive verses are like a wedge being driven into a log by a sledge hammer… I’ve split many logs in my day. Once in a while there is a stubborn knot. Sometimes the blow from the sledge hammer seems to go nowhere. Over and over again you wonder if the long will split. In the same way our lives are full of trials, because we are sinners, because we live in a fallen world…So the pattern of God is to give us promises of a better day that is coming so we can make it through the trials. Live by his promises, live in great expectation because God never fails… Thanks be to God, we were spared the ultimate trial when Jesus died on the cross in our place. At last the log is split! And there is peace. The goal comes to fulfillment.
First promise, then trial, and out of the ashes for those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, for those who hang on to the promises of God through the trials comes fulfillment/ blessings. READ Is. 52:15.
Kings will shut their mouths… I am not sure all this prophecy entails, but ight now it appears we have world leaders doing a lot of posturing, world movements bent on evil, self power, posturing….the day will come when the leaders of this world will be silenced because the promises of God will come to fulfillment and world leaders will be put in their proper place. Hang on to the promises of God, especially as we are in the middle of overwhelming trials… challenges in our personal world as well as the larger world.
The Day is coming when the promises of God will come to complete fulfilment. “will see” “will understand” is the language of the 2nd half of Is. 52:15. The promises will be fully realized. The pathway from promise to blessing is trials. And how sweet the blessings after the trials. If you are handed advantages without having to work, you are likely not to appreciate nearly as much as the person who labored to accomplish the goals. First comes the promises of God, then comes the trials, till at last you find fulfillment.
Let’s move to the final stanza of the monumental servant song of Isaiah. In this final stanza, Is. 53:10-12, fulfillment is emphasized. “After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied” (Is. 52:11). Jesus will be raised from the dead and he will find complete joy. When you believe in Jesus Christ, suffering is never the last word. The final truth is Resurrection. Fulfillment. New life.
God’s will is talked about in the beginning of this stanza: “Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him.” In isolation that is a harsh statement. Understand the pattern of promise, trial and fulfillment. Suffering is God’s will because it is part of the pattern of finding fulfillment. A good parent knows their children will make bad decisions, they will make wrong decisions, bad things will happen. It is part of the process of maturity… God’s will is to bring us to New Life, a new relationship with him, and the pathway goes through trials. God redeems the trials. He redeems the cross of Christ. He removes the cup of death. His will/God’s passion/God’s deep desire also leads Jesus Christ through the suffering to Prosper: READ Is. 53:10b.
Sally and I had a friend in school named Rabi…Rabiandreth Maharaj, a native of India from Trinidad and Tobago…. Rabi wrote a book called “Death of a Guru” in which he describes his conversion experience. As a boy Rabi, being a good Hindu from the highest Brahmin caste, had a favorite cow. He groomed and doted on the cow. One day Rabi was spending time with his favorite cow, and for no reason at all, the cow turned on him and tried to gore him. He was unhurt physically, but the shock of his cow turning on him shattered his world view. Through that crisis, Rabi gave his life to the Lord Jesus Christ and influenced many in his family to do the same.
God has ordained a universal pattern for His people to be drawn to Him: Promise, Trial, and Fulfillment. This means that if you are suffering this morning, you can take heart by looking back at the promises of God, and you can look forward to the fulfillment of those same promises…God sandwiches trails between promise and fulfillment. In addition, Jesus Christ goes to the cross to pay the price of your sin, so we don’t even suffer the greatest consequence of sin.
If you are struggling this morning, if your life is filled with confusion and uncertainty, plagued by bitter disappointment, cling to the words of Jesus: “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world" (John 16:33, NLT). God keeps his promises? Jesus bears the greatest burden by dying on the cross. And then comes the resurrection. He died and now he lives. The quote in the bulletin is so true: “If you're a Christian you're just a shadow of your future self.” (N.T. Wright).
The message of Easter is that God would not allow Jesus to stay in the tomb. From trial to fulfillment. From the Cross to Resurrection. Jesus Christ overcomes.
The Christian always has HOPE based on God’s promises. Over and over again, Is. 53 declares new life promised through Christ: He took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows; He was pierced, crushed, and punished for our sins; the LORD laid on Him our sins; He was oppressed and afflicted, yet suffered silently, led to the slaughter; for our sins He was stricken; the LORD willed to crush Him; He bore our sins; He bore the sin of many and makes intercession for sinners.
The trials of Jesus came to fulfillment: Jesus Christ rose from the dead. READ Is. 53:12a. THEREFORE is one of the greatest words of HOPE in the Bible. Whenever you read the word THEREFORE in the Bible, it is like getting to the final chapter of a thrilling book that you can hardly wait to find out how it ends. THEREFORE is used by Paul in Philippians 2:9, "Jesus was obedient unto death. Therefore God has highly exalted him and given him a name above every name."
Accept Christ, and your life, too, will be characterized by THEREFORE... your world is changed, your receive fulfillment, you walk with the Lord and follow his ways, you give your life to Jesus. THEREFORE the Lord brings your life to fulfillment.
You can hear the sacred pattern clearer when I switch the first and second half of Is. 53:12. READ. First comes the Promise, then trial ~ he poured out ~ he bore sins, he interceded… , THEREFORE the Lord is exalted, and therefore we are invited to share in his victory (share the spoils of war with the strong).
If your world is a muddled mess, look back at God’s promises and have confidence God wants to bring you near to himself, look ahead knowing that God’s will is for you to overcome. God has ordained a universal pattern for you and me to be drawn to Him: Promise, Trial, and Fulfillment. Look to Christ. Jesus is the focus of God’s promises. You can make it through all trials because Jesus paid the price himself, and Fulfillment is found in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. He is alive!