Sermon on Isaiah 50:4-10
Text: The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.
He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. 5 The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. 6 I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting. 7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! 9 It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.
10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the word of his servant? Let the one who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the LORD and rely on their God.
There is an ancient Greek story about two friends, whose names were Damon and Pythias. They were the closest of friends. Pythias was arrested and sentenced to death because he spoke out against the evil ruler of Syracuse. Pythias had a mother who was very old and lived some distance away. He asked that he might be allowed to go and see her one last time. The king refused. Damon stepped in and offered to stay in prison as an assurance that Pythias would return. If Pythias did not return in three days, Damon would die in his place. As the time for the execution drew near, the king laughed at Damon for being such a fool. Surely this was the last that he would see of his friend. Damon was led to the center of the town for the execution. Just as Damon was about to be killed, Pythias ran to them, explaining that his ship had been captured by pirates and he had been thrown overboard. After swimming to shore, Pythias came as quickly as he could to face the sentence. The king was so impressed by the loyalty the friends showed to each other that he let both of them go. Damon loved his friend Pythias so much that he was willing to die for him. While that story is fiction, it might remind us of someone who was not only willing to die for us, but he actually did so. That person, of course, is Jesus. As a result, let us TRUST IN THE NAME OF THE LORD. 1. He Suffered Willingly – For Us. 2. He Offered Himself Resolutely – For Us. 3. He Won The Victory Completely – For Us.
The prophet Isaiah lived about 700 years before Jesus was born. Yet, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was given a glimpse into what Jesus would do. Throughout the chapters surrounding our text, constant reference is made to the “Servant of the LORD.” There are those who say that this refers to Isaiah. However, when you look at what is said about the Servant of the LORD, it becomes obvious that Isaiah is speaking prophetically about the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would come to the earth to be our Savior from sin. The one who is speaking these words in our text is that Servant of the LORD.
He says, “The Sovereign LORD has opened my ears; I have not been rebellious, I have not turned away. I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” (Verses 5-6) Isn’t Isaiah’s description amazing? As was said earlier, Isaiah wrote this book 700 years before Jesus was born. Yet, it is almost as if Isaiah was witnessing firsthand the torture that Jesus endured at the hands of the Jewish officials and Roman soldiers. Remember how Jesus was blindfolded and struck? Then the striker would say, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:28) He was scourged by the Roman soldiers. He was spat upon and mocked. Isaiah recorded this 700 years before it happened. The Jews and the Romans were fulfilling a prophecy about the Messiah.
Why would the Servant of the LORD go through all of this? Why would he be hit and mocked? Why would he die such a shameful death? The Servant of the LORD prefaced this part of our text by saying, “The Sovereign LORD has given me a well-instructed tongue, to know the word that sustains the weary.” (Verse 4) What the Servant of the LORD was about to say would bolster up the sagging spirits of the people. This verse reminds us of Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Jesus offers rest for the weary. The rest that Jesus offers and gives is the forgiveness of sins. Imagine, if you will, that you are carrying something that is heavy and have done so for some time. Then, another person comes and takes that load from you. Imagine how good you would feel to be rid of that burden. The truth is, all people were carrying a great load, the load of sin. This load was overwhelming. The load that you were carrying, that I was carrying, was every single sin that we have ever committed. However, Jesus came into the world and took that load upon himself. He paid for every single sin on the cross. He suffered to bring us rest. This message sustains us. When we begin to feel bogged down by all of sins, then we can look to that cross where Jesus paid for all of them. We are forgiven. We are forgiven because Jesus suffered – for us.
Yet, my dear friends, let us never imagine for a moment that this was easy for Jesus. There was pain. There was humiliation. There was death. Jesus knew what he was about to face as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before he would die. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39) Whatever the Father wanted him to do, Jesus would do it. Jesus offered himself to his Father’s will. He would do whatever God wanted him to do.
Isaiah speaks of the determination of the Servant of the LORD as he records, “Because the Sovereign LORD helps me, I will not be disgraced. Therefore have I set my face like flint, and I know I will not be put to shame.” (Verse 7) When it says, “I set my face like flint,” it means that he was bound and determined to do it. Nothing was going to change his mind about what he was about to do.
There were many things that tempted Jesus not to go through with his rescue mission. As we noted earlier, there was pain, humiliation, and death waiting for Jesus. No one willingly goes through that. We were reminded of one of Satan’s temptations in our Gospel lesson for this morning. (Mark 8:27:35) After Jesus told his disciples about his upcoming suffering and death, Peter took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him for talking that way. Jesus realized that Satan had seized that moment to try and keep Jesus from carrying out the plan of salvation. That is why Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Mark 8:33) Jesus showed that nothing was going to stop him from carrying out God’s plan of salvation. He did so – for us.
We, also, face many temptations to just go along with the flow of the world. It’s so easy to just float along and not cause any waves. There will be temptations to misuse God’s name. There are temptations to lust as we watch television or movies or look at the internet. There are temptations to put other things or people ahead of God. We will face these temptations and more. However, when we face these temptations, let us set our faces like flint and say “No.” Let us live lives completely dedicated to God, filled with thanksgiving for all that he has done for us. Jesus dedicated his life to saving us. May we dedicate our lives to serving him.
The Servant of the LORD continues, “He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! It is the Sovereign LORD who helps me. Who will condemn me? They will all wear out like a garment; the moths will eat them up.” (Verses 8-9) Again, we are reminded of the trials of Jesus. They tried to bring charges against Jesus to prove him guilty. Earlier, Jesus had asked the Jewish officials, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46) They were unable to do so, because Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. So, now the Servant of the LORD calls his accusers together and presents them with the fact that they were unable to prove him guilty. He also pronounces judgment on them. They would be worn out like a garment. They will be eaten by moths. All who oppose Jesus will face an eternity of punishment, feeling God’s anger upon them. Jesus completely won the victory, the victory over sin, death and the devil – for us.
Because of Jesus’ death, we know that sin has no power to accuse us. Our consciences come forward and point to those times in our lives when we have failed to live a holy life. The conscience says that we deserve to be punished. However, we can quiet that troubled conscience by saying, ‘Jesus has paid for my sins.’ The devil tempts us. However, he is unable to take us from our loving Father, because Jesus won the victory. Satan was defeated when Jesus spoke from the cross, “It is finished.” Jesus also won victory over death when he rose from the dead. Though it might appear, at first, as though death wins when loved ones are taken away from us, death has been defeated. Death cannot hold us. When Jesus returns at the end of time, all those who believed in him will rise from the dead and live forever in heaven. Paul praises God for this victory over death, as he writes, “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting? . . . Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:55, 57) This victory is ours because of Jesus. He won the victory – for us.
After Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, his body laid in state in the Capital. A long line of people stood in line to see the body. An elderly black woman took her grandson to see the man who had freed them. As they stood in front of the body, the grandmother told her grandson, “Take a long look at that man. He died for you.” My dear friends, may we take a long look at Jesus. He suffered death – for us. He won the victory – for us. He did all of this for us. Now, may we live our lives – for him. Since he has done all of this for us, out of thanksgiving, let us dedicate ourselves to him. As John reminds us in his first epistle, “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) In conclusion, I would like to draw to your attention several verses from the hymn, “I Gave My Life For You.” (CW 454:1,5,6)
I gave my life for thee; My precious blood I shed
That thou might’st ransomed be And quickened from the dead.
I gave my life for thee; Come, give thyself to me!
And I have brought to thee Down from my home above
Salvation full and free, My pardon and my love.
Great gifts I brought for thee; Come, bring thy gifts to me.
Oh, let thy life be spent, Thy years for me be giv’n,
As I for thee was sent To bear thee home to heav’n.
I gave my life for thee; Come, give thy life to me.
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