July 19, 2010 David Balzer

Isaiah 42; 61: The Promises of Christmas: The Job Description

The promise of SOMETHING GOOD TO COME is a powerful motivator. There’s the expectation and anticipation – which are sometimes better than the actual experience!

It happens like that when you’re PLANNING A HOLIDAY. You get all the guide-books, the travel brochures, and the maps. You spend weeks discussing every day. You book the accommodation and the tours. You buy extra outfits and gear and bags. You spend days packing and re-packing.

And it’s the anticipation of the holiday to come that keeps you going through the last few weeks of work.

The promise of SOMETHING GOOD TO COME is a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, the holiday often fails to measure up to the promise, doesn’t it?

Or cooking a wonderful meal. You see the perfect picture in the cookbook. You shop for all the supplies, you clean the kitchen in preparation. You carefully assemble your ingredients, putting everything into little glass bowls – like they do on the cooking shows.

You follow the recipe to the LETTER. You check and double-check your quantities, and your measurements. And as you work through each step, it all looks SO GOOD. It SMELLS so good. It TASTES….

The promise of SOMETHING GOOD TO COME is a powerful motivator. But it never seems to turn out as it does in the cookbooks, or taste as good as it smells.

And it was the PROMISE of SOMETHING GOOD TO COME which God gave his people Israel. Around the 8th or 9th century BC. Promises of a RESCUER. Promises of A KING. Who’d bring a NEW KINGDOM, with a NEW PEACE, and a NEW RELATIONSHIP with God.

They’re promises we remember at Christmas. Because at Christmas we celebrate God MAKING GOOD on all his promises. When he sent Jesus. God became man, and was born in a body. And the RESULT is EVERY BIT AS GOOD as the PROMISE.

Today we’re looking at the promised JOB DESCRIPTION of God’s rescuer. What would he DO?

Let’s pray before we start – that God would help us to understand the things he says to us through his word, the Bible.

PRAY!!

Peter Costello – the anointed one. John Howard’s second in charge.

And, if the opposition’s got it right, the one who’ll be Prime Minister SOONER rather than LATER. They reckon John Howard will retire in the next couple of years. And hand the job over to his Treasurer. His loyal deputy.

Do you remember Labor’s political advertising during the last election? The ads about Costello. Scratch and win cards. There was a picture of John Howard. With the question next to it. “Guess who will be Prime Minister if you vote in John Howard?”

And scratch off the covering. And underneath was a picture of Peter Costello.

Very clever advertising. Labour decided that Costello was a LIABILITY. Someone who’d LOSE votes for the Government, rather than WIN them.

They’d more or less conceded that John Howard had most people’s confidence, but they were betting on the fact that people would be SCARED at the thought of having Peter Costello as PM.

Unfortunately for Labor, the results showed Australian voters were MORE scared of MARK LATHAM running the country / than the CHANCE of Peter Costello.

But whatever your political views ARE/ the accepted wisdom is that some time in the next three years. John Howard will be calling a press conference. And as the cameras focus in on the little guy peering over the top of the microphones, there standing next to him will be his Treasurer. His moderately-loyal deputy. His successor. His ANOINTED ONE.

And John Howard’s speech will go something like this;

“It’s time for me to retire. Time for someone else to take over. I’ve worked with Peter Costello for many years. He has my COMPLETE CONFIDENCE. He will lead Australia, and the Liberal Party, from strength to strength. For many years to come. Well, at least to the next election”

At which point Peter will impatiently elbow John Howard out of the way, assume the mike, and give HIS ACCEPTANCE SPEECH.

The PRESENTATION. And the ACCEPTANCE SPEECH.

It’s a tough job being Prime Minister. And one where you’d want to be 100% confident with the man you’re appointing.

But running the country is NOTHING/ compared with the job description God has in mind for HIS SERVANT. It’s a title that’s found in Isaiah – from Chapters 40-66 – the second half of the book.

And it’s a job that involves BRINGING IN GOD’S KINGDOM. A job that involves ruling over a NEW CREATION. With justice and strength and equity and peace. A kingdom FOR ALL NATIONS.

But at the time of Isaiah/ the job was nothing more than a DISTANT PROMISE. A bit like John Howard’s promise to retire and hand the reins over to Peter Costello.

We saw last week, from the FIRST CHAPTERS OF ISAIAH, how Israel had forgotten God. Chosen to live life WITHOUT him. And so he’d handed them over to foreign nations. To be attacked, and ransacked. And ultimately to be conquered and exiled.

But for all that/ the punishment was only PART of God’s plan. Because God’s GOAL was to bring his people back. To restore them. Not just to THE LAND. But also to a relationship with HIM.

And THAT part of the plan – the part to do with RESTORATION, AND RESCUE AND RELATIONSHIP, is where HIS SERVANT came in.

The Presentation (42:1-9)

And so we come to Ch 42. God’s talking. And what we see here is a kind of PRESENTATION. God presenting HIS CHOICE. His ANOINTED SERVANT. The one who would achieve HIS PURPOSES. Like John Howard presenting Peter Costello.

Who (1)

Look at it there in v1. God’s talking.

(Isa 42:1 NIV)  “HERE IS MY SERVANT, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.

This servant is someone who’ll come with GOD’S AUTHORITY. See, he’s upheld and strengthened by the presence of God’s Spirit himself?

And he’s no stop-gap measure – someone to make do with/ until a better option comes along. He’s God’s CHOICE. The one in whom he DELIGHTS. Got his complete confidence.

How (2-4)

That’s the WHO. What about the HOW? How will he do his job? V2.

(Isa 42:2-3 NIV)  He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. {3} A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

This is no tyrant. No head-kicker. He will do his job with GENTLENESS and COMPASSION.

It’s important when you feeling BRUISED AND FRAGILE that people treat you with KID GLOVES.

That was certainly the case with Israel. They’d really been through the wringer. And there was worse to come. More punishment and suffering at the hands of their enemies.

But God’s promise is that his servant will treat people with GENTLENESS.

That’s the point in the two images. {3} A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

Flimsy, fragile people – with barely the puff of life left in them. This close to death.

And there’s plenty of people like that out there. Who need someone to treat them with a bit of respect and compassion. People who’ve been deserted, abandoned. Sick people. Lonely people. Struggling people. Struggling with sickness, or guilt, or abandonment, or expectations.

But God’s servant won’t break bruised reeds like that. He won’t snuff out smouldering candles. Which is great news for us.

But it’s no good being gentle, if you’re not going to be JUST as well. See it there? At the end of v1?

and he will bring justice to the nations.

To be gentle to EVERYONE means you’re a DOORMAT, and people GET AWAY WITH THINGS.

Justice means being GENTLE with the broken reeds. But FIRM and UNCOMPROMISING with those who DESERVE IT – those who DAMAGE the reeds and smouldering wicks. Who abuse and mistreat and exploit and take advantage of.

Because justice towards THOSE PEOPLE is one part of being GENTLE to the broken reeds.

God’s servant is both gentle AND just. What a great combination!

What (5-9)

That’s the WHO and the HOW. The third question about the servant is WHAT. What does his job INVOLVE?

From v5, God’s attention turns to the servant himself. Rather than addressing HIS PEOPLE, God speaks to HIS SERVANT. Look from V6.

(Isa 42:6 NIV)  “I, the LORD, HAVE CALLED YOU in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be A COVENANT for the people and A LIGHT for the Gentiles,

God’s job description for his servant involves being A COVENANT, and A LIGHT.

A covenant’s just another word for a PROMISE, or a COMMITMENT. So God’s saying his servant will be the MEANS BY WHICH HE FULFILS, or KEEPS, his PROMISE to his people. His INSTRUMENT of rescue and restoration and renewal.

And that happens by being like a LIGHT. A BEACON. A source of direction and guidance and purity to the other nations.

And see how he’s going to DO THAT in the next verse. V7. He will

(Isa 42:7 NIV)  …open eyes that are blind, …free captives from prison and … release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

And there are plenty of people like THAT in the world. Not just in LITERAL prisons, but trapped by debt, or sickness, or moral choices, or guilt, or economic policy.

And BLIND people – many of whom don’t even KNOW it. Blind to God. Blind to ETERNITY and THINGS that LAST. Who only see the things of THIS world. Things that RUST, and PERISH.

People who are BLIND to CONSEQUENCES. Who can’t see how things they do TODAY affect what happens in the future.

These are the sorts of people God’s Servant has come to FREE. And RESTORE.

The Acceptance Speech (61:1-3)

It’s a pretty daunting Job Description. You wouldn’t hold it against someone if they didn’t take on a job like that. And yet, God’s servant takes it on WILLINGLY.

If you flip over to Ch 61. You can see the Servant’s ACCEPTANCE SPEECH.

And as you listen carefully, you can notice all the aspects of the JOB DESCRIPTION. Everything God wants his Servant to do, the servant will accomplish. Look at it there from v1.

(Isa 61:1-3 NIV)  The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, {2} to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, {3} and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair..

Look at the PEOPLE he’s come for. Bruised reeds and smouldering wicks. The poor, the broken-hearted, captives, prisoners. Freeing captives.

But he’s not about smashing down solid doors. Political revolution. His job involves WORDS. Bringing GOOD NEWS. Look at the verses again. He’s come to PREACH GOOD NEWS. To PROCLAIM FREEDOM, and down in v2, to PROCLAIM, and to COMFORT.

But who is it? Who IS this servant of God? There’s a hint in the first verse. “The LORD has ANOINTED me”. It’s the word for MESSIAH in Hebrew. Messiah means anointed one. And when that’s translated into Greek, it becomes CHRIST.

The Servant is God’s MESSIAH. His promised rescuer is his CHRIST.

But there’s a long time between MAKING the promise. And KEEPING the promise. More than 700 years in fact.

On the Job (Lk 4:14-30)

But just because that seems like a long time, doesn’t mean God’s FORGOTTEN. It’s time for his servant. He’s ON THE JOB.

In your minds, jump forward 700 years. And in your Bibles, about 200 pages. To Lk 2:25 (p725).

We’re still in Jerusalem. At THE TEMPLE to be specific. It was forty days after the FIRST CHRISTMAS. And, like happened most days, a month old baby was to be consecrated to God.

But this was no ORDINARY baby. I’ll let Luke take up the story. In v25.

(Luke 2:25-32 NIV)  Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. {26} It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s CHRIST. {27} Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, {28} Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: {29} “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. {30} For my eyes have seen your SALVATION, {31} which you have prepared in the sight of all people, {32} A LIGHT FOR REVELATION TO THE GENTILES and for glory to your people Israel.”

Simeon had been waiting for God to KEEP HIS PROMISE. And God finally DID. The Servant he’d promised. His Christ.

And Simeon could hardly believe his eyes. All that time. And finally. There in his arms – this helpless baby called Jesus/ was the ONE – the Christ.

And notice what Simeon says about him? Just what God promised through Isaiah. That he’d SAVE people – deliver them. And that he’d be A LIGHT TO THE GENTILES.

Lk 3:22

But he’s only a BABY. So there’s a bit more in store before God FULLY keeps his promises.

Jump forward another 30 years. Or turn over to the next page – which is probably easier. To Ch 3. And the baby’s become a man. And this man, Jesus, is baptised by John the Baptist. And as he comes up out of the water, two significant things happen. V22.

(Luke 3:22 NIV)  and THE HOLY SPIRIT DESCENDED ON HIM in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “YOU ARE MY SON, WHOM I LOVE; WITH YOU I AM WELL PLEASED.”

And both things should be familiar to those of us who’ve been expecting God’s SERVANT. Remember Isaiah 42? Listen again.

(Isa 42:1 NIV)  “Here is my servant, WHOM I UPHOLD, MY CHOSEN ONE IN WHOM I DELIGHT; I will put MY SPIRIT ON HIM and he will bring justice to the nations.

God’s declaration of DELIGHT and LOVE for his servant – his Messiah – his SON. And the validation of his authority with God’s Holy Spirit.

Simeon’s recognised Jesus. God’s recognised him. THIS MAN is God’s SERVANT. The one to rescue and restore broken and imprisoned and blind people.

Luke 4:14-30

And in the very next chapter, we see that Jesus HIMSELF recognises it. It’s his own ACCEPTANCE SPEECH.

He’s arrived home after a victorious tour. Miracles and healing. Exorcisms. Relieving suffering. Deliverance from all sorts of prisons. Comfort for all sorts of bruised reeds.

The news spreads like wildfire.

And he turns up at his hometown synagogue one Sabbath morning. And he’s invited to read the Bible. So he stands up, and they hand him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.

So Jesus carefully rolls it up. Until he gets to… You guessed it – THE SERVANT’S ACCEPTANCE SPEECH. Ch 61. And he reads.

(Luke 4:18-21 NIV)  “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, {19} to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” {20} Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, {21} and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Can you imagine it? “The Messiah Israel’s been waiting for/ for 700 years! He’s arrived! Right here in Nazareth!”

What great news!

And it’s great news for US TOO. It’s the good news of Christmas. Because Jesus’ job description was about preaching GOOD NEWS. News of prison doors opened. Blind people seeing. Sins that could be forgiven. News of a friendship restored with God.

News that involved SALVATION. A rescue that would culminate in God’s servant SUFFERING. Suffering DEATH on a cross. To take the punishment that our sins deserved. So that we could be forgiven.

There’s ONE OTHER passage in Isaiah that talks about God’s servant. It’s Ch 53. And it describes, not the victory and comfort and freedom. But the SUFFERING. The suffering of a servant whose SO OBEDIENT to his Master, that he’ll endure DEATH. Listen to how Isaiah described it. Is 53 v3.

(Isa 53:3-5 NIV)  He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. {4} Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. {5} But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

Jesus died in our place. It’s by MEANS of his OWN SUFFERING that Jesus brings salvation for his people. Rescue for ME and rescue for YOU. That’s the WAY he brings deliverance for prisoners. Freedom for captives. Sight to the blind.

The centre of all God’s promises for his people are that HE WILL BE THEIR GOD, and will DWELL with THEM. And that can only happen when we’re FORGIVEN.

And once you’ve been forgiven/ then REAL LIFE begins. Life with Jesus in charge. Life with purpose and joy and meaning and a future.

So whatever prison you’re in/ rescue BEGINS with forgiveness. And forgiveness only comes through God’s Servant – his Messiah, His SON – Jesus.

The answer to God’s promises. Promises we remember at Christmas. So, this Christmas, thank God for his promises. Thank God for his Servant. Thank God for HIS FORGIVENESS.

They’re a REALITY that are EVERY BIT AS GOOD as the PROMISES.

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