Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Receive the Victory, Chosen of God

Yet the LORD was pleased to crush Him severely.

Ouch.

So begins the fifth and final stanza of Isaiah’s fourth song of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12).




And all of this made God happy? It pleased Him?

The four previous stanzas described the sacrificial death of the Servant with awful terms.

  • Disfigured, beaten to the point of being unrecognizable
  • Despised, rejected, a man of suffering
  • Stricken, struck down by God, afflicted
  • Pierced, crushed, punished
  • Oppressed, judged, cut off

Why on earth would God find pleasure in this?


Because of this…

The Servant’s death would make restitution for wrongs done against the holy name of God. Jesus gave Himself up as a restitution offering (aka, guilt offering in other translations). Jesus’ death created a way for the ultimate wrong to be made right – for God’s creation to be restored to their former position. God and people could dwell together once again.


What happened then?

With restitution made, the Servant will see His spiritual offspring. Through resurrection, He will no longer experience death. He will accomplish the desire of God.

Yes, He will go through anguish to reach the end goal. God’s not pleased with that part. But sin’s entrance into the world brought with it the need for sacrifice. God is pleased that the Servant willingly offered Himself as the final sacrifice to permanently make right the wrong done by our choice to sin. And despite the anguish, Jesus will be satisfied because He knows the results.

He knows His anguish will make restitution to declare us righteous.

He knows His anguish will bear our distortion of truth – that His resurrection will defeat our distortion of truth. That He is truth.

He knows His suffering will take us from co-conspirator to co-heir (Romans 8:17). From vile to victorious (1 John 5:4). From condemned to conqueror (1 John 4:4).




And in true Hebrew fashion – to circle back around and link to the beginning of this song – “He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13).


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Behold the Lamb, Children of God

God’s Word never grows boring; its depth never ends. We continue to work through Isaiah’s fourth song of the suffering servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). This prophetic passage is so rich in meaning on the surface but the intricacies and details becoming even richer as we dive deeper into each stanza. So many of these words and phrases hold a life of their own – they leave me wanting to know more! How deep can we go into some of these things? Maybe a book someday. It’s too much for this series!


Where we’ve been

Wake Up, City of God, (stanza one) – the sufferings of the Jewish people foreshadowed the suffering of the Servant of God.

Believe It, People of God (stanza two) – as hard as it might be to believe, the Servant Messiah would come as a man. God would become a man.

Consider the Why, Rebels of God (stanza three) – The people suffered, the Servant suffered, and He came to earth as a man for a pinnacle purpose. He came to carry our sickness and pain, to restore our covenant relationship, and to enable us to live life on His path.




This stanza picks up where the last one left off – the oppression and affliction of the Servant. These torments came upon Him because of our perversion and distortion of the truth. That was the “why” we looked at last week.

Here we see His response. He didn’t say a word. He could’ve declared His right to the glory of heaven. He could have proclaimed truth as a double-edged sword that would have brought His accusers to defeat. The mouth that spoke and created the universe could have spoke again and created a kingdom with Himself as King.

He could have, but He didn’t. Why not? Because when He does do those things, He wants us there with Him. That only happens if He makes a way for it to happen because we can’t ascend to that level of righteousness on our own. He can only make that happen by first dying as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Kind of like the Passover lamb did for the ancient Jewish people.


Behold the Lamb, Children of God

“Like a lamb”

The lamb is first mentioned in the Bible as the animal God provided as a substitution for Isaac when God told Abraham to sacrifice him on Mount Moriah. The blood of the sacrificed lamb also provided protection for the people of Israel during the tenth plague in Egypt. The Jewish people still celebrated this event during the time of Isaiah, during the time of Jesus, and even still today although without the lamb. (That’s significant but more than we can get into here.)

This lamb isn’t sacrificed, though; he’s slaughtered. The men who sent Jesus to His death didn’t do so as if they were offering up the Passover lamb even though He did die on Passover. In the minds of Jesus’ accusers, they were sending Him to slaughter. Slaughter is a sign of power and judgment. They executed judgment and power to bring Jesus to His death.

Let me point out here, though, that the Servant went willingly to His suffering. “I am laying down my life so I may take it up again” (John 10:17). He also said Satan himself has no authority to bring Him to His death. Jesus went willingly.


“Like a sheep”


Three of Jesus’ forefathers – Jacob, Judah, and David – had interesting stories involving the shearing of sheep (Genesis 31, Genesis 38, and 1 Samuel 25, respectively). It’s too much to write about here; let me just say they all involve partying, drunkenness, deception, revenge, transferred blessing, and ascent to power.

And that’s exactly what we see in Isaiah 53 with the Servant as a sheep before shearers. The shearers – the Jewish leadership of Jesus’ day – are drunk with their own power and self-righteousness. The end result is God denies them the blessing they think they’ve earned. The blessing goes to another; in this case, it goes to all people as the Servant provides salvation for all the earth. The Servant ascends to power as He conquers sin and death and is seated at the right hand of God the Father in heaven, “far above every rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21).

Through it all, again, he was silent. The tongue of the Word Made Flesh was bound - bound as is a sheep while the wool is shorn. Once more, He knew His death must come first.


So…

He was cut off from the land of the living – cut off, just as the wool is shorn from the body of the sheep.

He was struck because of our rebellion – struck, just like the plague struck the people of Egypt who didn’t have the blood of the lamb on their doorpost.

He made His grave with the wicked – wicked, just like those destroyed in Sodom and Gomorrah.

Even still, “He had done no violence and had not spoken deceitfully” (Isaiah 53:9). He still was the spotless, unblemished Passover Lamb. Cut off, struck, among the wicked –Why? So we could paint the blood of the Lamb on the doorposts of our hearts; so we could experience freedom from slavery and life instead of death.

Read about the fifth stanza, Isaiah 53:10-12, by clicking here: Receive the Victory, Chosen of God

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Consider the Why, Rebels of God

The people have suffered.

The Servant has suffered.

With this week we reach the middle – the pinnacle – of Isaiah’s Song of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). In the midst of this week’s stanza lies the point of the servant’s suffering; the “Why?” which we have all questioned.

The people and the city of God suffered under oppression and slavery just as the Servant would also have to suffer (Article one of this series – Wake Up, City of God).

God would have to become a man – forsaking all rights and entitlements – no matter how hard it might be to believe such a thing (Article two of this series – Believe It, People of God).


Why?


  • Why did Israel suffer?
  • Why did the Servant suffer?
  • Why did He come as a man?
We may know the “what” of the Servant’s suffering – the characters, the details, the methods, the timing, and the place. All of that is worthless, though, unless we know the “why.” Why gives the suffering purpose.

“Why?” takes a random execution and gives it meaning. This execution held significance for all people for all time.




The Connection

A little Hebrew wordplay in Isaiah 53:3-4 ties together the suffering of the Servant Man with the reason for why He had to suffer. Verse three describes Him as “a man of suffering who knew what sickness was.” As is common in Hebrew poetry, Isaiah repeated these ideas – in reverse order and with more explanation – in verse four. “He Himself bore our sicknesses and He carried our pains.” In the pictures below, the words highlighted with the same color are the same word in Hebrew.


Yes, the Servant was a man. All men are familiar with suffering, sickness, and sorrow. The first line doesn’t tell us much that’s new. The connection between the first line and the second shows us the significance. The Servant knew pain and sickness because He knew OUR pain and sickness. Isaiah’s. The Jews. The Gentiles. Yours. Mine. Ours.

Another Hebrew repetition reveals even more significance to the Servant’s suffering. In verse three, when we thought the Servant was just some man who suffered, we couldn’t even be bothered with it; didn’t give it a second thought. “We didn’t value Him.” In verse four, Isaiah told us it’s our suffering that the Servant carried. And so our response changes – we do take the time to think about it. Our conclusion? We “regarded Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted.”



Yeah, we thought about it. We decided He’s just a man so God must have…

  • Reached out to strike Him as a sinner
  • Wounded and killed Him
  • Brought Him down low


But we distort the truth

Whether or not we believe something doesn’t change whether or not it is true. Truth is truth regardless of whether we believe it or not. That’s the case here.

We may choose to believe that Jesus was just a man – brought low, wounded, and killed. But that doesn’t change the reality. Remember, it was our sickness which He bore and our pain which He carried. But there's more...

  • Our rebellion pierced Him.
  • Our distortion of the truth crushed Him.
  • We needed discipline to restore our covenant relationship with God but the discipline fell upon the Servant.
  • Every hit He received brought healing to us.

He never rebelled, He never distorted the truth, He never needed discipline to restore His relationship with the Father, and He never needed healing. If He was just a man He would have needed all of these things. But He’s more – He’s God. The Servant is a man; the Servant is God. Together in one.


There’s another reason why

He carried our sickness and pain. He restored our relationship. In case that’s not enough, the Servant’s suffering is significant for one more reason in this stanza. God created us to go on a certain path but we wandered off it. We turned to our own path instead. We distort God’s truth as we wander aimlessly down our own chaotic path. The result of our wandering was punishment. 

But Love stepped in. The punishment that was supposed to fall on us – God made it fall on the Servant instead.




So the answer to "Why?" is this...

He did it so He could carry our sickness and pain instead of us.

He did it to restore our relationship with God, despite the rebellion and distortion of truth that is within us.

He did it to bring us back onto the right path – the path for which He created us.


Read about the fourth stanza, Isaiah 53:7-9, by clicking here: Behold the Lamb, Children of God.

Read about the fifth stanza, Isaiah 53:10-12, by clicking here: Receive the Victory, Children of God.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Believe It, People of God

Passover and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection will be here soon. We don’t mourn as a people who have no hope; we rejoice in this holy season. We celebrate freedom from slavery; we find joy in God’s provision of redemption for all people.

This season we’re reading through the last of four servant songs written by the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). Written hundreds of years before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, they give detailed prophecies of the coming Messiah. Prophecies fulfilled in the life of Jesus. We read the first stanza last week – Wake Up, City of God.




Hard to Believe

“Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1 NIV). Sometimes we hear things – especially in this day of internet-based information overload – that don’t really seem possible. Sometimes a little tidbit of news seems a little too far out there – a little hard to believe. 

Or, maybe the news doesn’t quite fit with how we think the situation should play out. We expect one outcome of events and yet things appear to have happened a different way.

Kind of like the news Isaiah is about to share with his fellow Jews. Will anyone believe this message? Will anyone realize they have beheld the power of God, poetically referred to as the arm of the Lord? After all, it’s kind of a hard message to accept that the Messiah would… could lower to… could humiliate Himself to … come as a man.


Four Aspects of Jesus’ Humanity. “He…”


  • “He grew up before Him like a young plant and like a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2).

Since Jesus came as a man, He had to grow up. He lay in a manger as a baby and learned in the Temple as a boy. He grew to manhood.

But He also grew before God the Father – connected to Him as a sapling tree connects to the original tree. Yes, He was a man but He came from God and was God.

He grew before God the Father – miraculously as a root that grows out of dry earth. Yes, He was a man but He was a source of life in a spiritually dry, desolate environment.


  • “He didn’t have an impressive form or majesty that we should look at Him, no appearance that we should desire Him” (Isaiah 53:2).

His body, His clothes, and His appearance were normal. 

He didn’t have the physique of Thor or Superman. He didn’t dress or have gadgetry like Iron Man or Batman. He didn’t have an intimidating appearance like the Incredible Hulk. He was a man.


  • “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of suffering who knew what sickness was” (Isaiah 53:3). 

His reputation was nothing special; He wasn’t immune from pain, sorrow, or suffering.

He didn’t focus on building a platform or deal with paparazzi. Most people who lived in the first century probably never even heard His name. He definitely didn’t break any retweet records as did Ellen DeGeneres.

He ached for His beloved city of Jerusalem, wanting to gather the people together under His protection (Luke 13:34). He wept over the death of a dear friend, Lazarus, and for the sisters who didn’t yet realize that only through Him was resurrection and life (John 11:35). He was troubled knowing that betrayal would come from a friend with whom He sat at the same table (John 13:21). In agony, He sweat drops of blood as His crucifixion drew near (Luke 22:44). He was a man.



  • “He was like someone people turned away from; He was despised, and we didn’t value Him” (Isaiah 53:3). 

He had no special charm and no celebrity status.

Celebrity status has taken over the American church. People love pastors and teachers for their charisma, charm, dynamic delivery, and impressive buildings. Many of us would excitedly jump at the opportunity to meet Billy Graham, Francis Chan, John MacArthur, John Piper, Marc Driscoll, Rick Warren, or __________ (fill in the blank with your favorite celebrity pastor). Usually (unfortunately not always), the pastor or teacher isn’t after the celebrity status; it is a by-product of our culture. We are drawn to them because of their charisma and charm. We lift them up; we highly esteem them.

Jesus had none of that. Nothing drew people to Him. Very few jumped at the chance to meet Him – usually only those hoping for a healing. Most turned away from Him. He wasn’t the Christian celebrity we know today full of charisma and charm. He was a man.

It’s kind of hard to believe, isn’t it? The Savior of the world, the awaited Messiah, wouldn’t supernaturally appear as a conquering hero. He wouldn’t come with beauty and majesty. He wouldn’t be overwhelmingly popular and loved by all.



But don’t worry, that day is coming. The Messiah came the first time as Isaiah’s prophesied Servant but a second coming awaits us in the future. At that time, He will supernaturally appear as the conquering hero. The whole world will behold His beauty, power, and majesty. The whole world will worship Him as King of Kings. Amen to that.


Read about the third stanza, Isaiah 53:4-6, by clicking here: Consider the Why, Rebels of God.

Read about the fourth stanza, Isaiah 53:7-9, by clicking here: Behold the Lamb, Children of God.

Read about the fifth stanza, Isaiah 53:10-12, by clicking here: Receive the Victory, Chosen of God

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wake Up, City of God

Do you ever have one of those times when you hear a Bible passage repeated over and over in your life? Church, online, devotional reading, wherever.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 has been that way for me over the last few weeks. Even more, I felt God prompt me to study it in depth each time I heard it. I couldn’t let it merely go in one ear and out the other.

Passover and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection approach with each passing day. These words from Isaiah are the last of four passages referred to as the “Servant Songs.” They all prophesy the suffering of the coming Jewish Messiah. So with that divinely orchestrated coincidence, this post begins a series building up to Passover and the Resurrection in which we’ll consider this song of the servant. Today, let's only focus on the first stanza.


The Servant Jesus

When I first read through these verses something odd jumped out at me. I immediately circled it in my notes. As it turns out, the oddity would be the key to understanding this passage.

The oddity is this – the word “You.” Do you see it right there in the third line? Who is the “You” referring to since the Servant throughout the passage is referred to as “He” or “Him?”

As a Christian, I see Jesus throughout this passage – He is the Servant who will act wisely. Who else’s appearance would appall many? Could anything be as horrific as Jesus’ disfigured, mutilated body hanging on a Roman crucifixion stake?

The context for these verses helped enlighten me to whom the “You” refers. Back up to verses 1-12 of this chapter. “Wake up, wake up; put on your strength, Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the Holy City! For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer enter you” (Isaiah 52:1). And so it continues throughout the chapter. “You” refers to Zion, the beautiful city of Jerusalem.


Why are many appalled at Jerusalem?

After all, Israel is God’s “treasured possession” (Psalm 135:4). Jerusalem is “the city of our God” (Psalm 48:1) and “the perfection of beauty” (Psalm 50:2). This is only a very brief, quick sampling of how God feels about Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel.

However, despite all of that, the first part of Isaiah 52 reminds us His treasured possession was enslaved in Egypt and oppressed by the Assyrians (Isaiah 52:4). The rulers of Jerusalem wail and men blaspheme the name of the Lord within her (Isaiah 52:5).


How could this happen to the city – the people – that the Lord loves?

Perhaps one reason God allowed it was to serve as a picture for how His Holy Servant would also be mistreated and reviled by the world. He also would endure the extreme of separation from God before the time of His exaltation.

Despite the slavery, oppression, and groaning, God exalts His holy city. “Remove the bonds from your neck, captive Daughter Zion” (Isaiah 52:2). God redeems her (verse 3), her watchman and her ruins will both shout for joy once again (verses 8-9), and God will reveal His salvation for all nations within her (verse 10).

God will do likewise for His Servant, the Messiah. Jesus also was disfigured and beyond human recognition, but “He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13).

Just like people were appalled with “You,” Israel, they also will be appalled with God’s Servant.

Just like God will restore and exalt His Holy City, He will restore and exalt His Servant.




And you know what? These two things are going to happen at the same time – when Jesus returns a second time.

In that moment, “all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).

In that moment, “He will startle many nations” (Isaiah 52:15).

In that moment, “Kings will shut their mouths because of Him” (Isaiah 52:15).

Because they will see and understand what didn’t previously seem possible – that Jesus, the Servant, the Messiah, is the salvation of the world.

Read about the second stanza, Isaiah 53:1-3, by clicking here: Believe It, People of God.

Read about the third stanza, Isaiah 53:4-6, by clicking here: Consider the Why, Rebels of God.

Read about the fourth stanza, Isaiah 53:7-9, by clicking here: Behold the Lamb, Children of God.

Read about the fifth stanza, Isaiah 53:10-12, by clicking here: Receive the Victory, Chosen of God

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Do Believe; Help Me!

A friend of mine, Sheri Kaetzel, recently returned from her first mission trip to Africa. In case you’re wondering, this wasn’t a Grow Barefoot trip. Not that it matters because, after all, we’re all working for the kingdom of God. We’re all trying to fulfill the same great commission. We’re all trying to spread a message of hope and light to a dark world. But I just wanted you to know.

I loved reading her trip stories at her blog, The Leaking Window. This particular one, however, I knew I had to pass along so I asked her to share here on Grow Barefoot. I wanted to share it because she reveals her fears, sense of inadequacy, and lack of belief in undertaking a short term trip to a difficult region. But she went anyway. She stepped out in faith, trusted God, prayed for help, and in so doing, accomplished what God asked of her.

That’s what He asks of each of us – a little faith and trust, some prayer, and some action. Even if we never leave American soil, He calls each of us to serve Him somewhere…with someone…in some way…everyday.

So, thank you, Sheri, for being faithful. And thank you for sharing your story with us!

For this thinker-type personality my thoughts are hard to formulate about our recent trip to Africa. There are so many words and thoughts, but making them land on my keyboard seems a bit difficult. But I will force them out because if I don't I fear they might be lost. And that would be tragic.

At the beginning of the trip Pastor Ray Noah tackled the questions that were plaguing almost all of us throughout the trip: Lord, why am I here? What do I have to offer? He admitted he still wondered himself. But he felt God had given him a word to embrace: BELIEVE.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”
Mark 9:24

  • BELIEVE... you are here in God's will. No matter how you got here.
  • BELIEVE... you are here for a divine purpose.
  • BELIEVE... you are walking in God's provision.
  • BELIEVE... God will use you to bless those you come in contact with.
  • BELIEVE... God will use those you come in contact with to bless you.
  • BELIEVE... this trip will change your life-trajectory.
And know that whatever lies before us we should... 
  • BELIEVE that God has already gone before us.

It makes me think of Beth Moore's study Believing God when she shares, "As forcefully as God has ever spoken to my heart, He said, 'you believe in Me, Beth. Now I want you to believe Me.’”

Believe Me.

And that's what I had to do. Believe God. Believe He would use this suburban house-wife and mother for a divine purpose in Africa…

…whose only assignment was to teach widows how to knit a hat.
…who felt insignificant for the mission. 
…but believing that He would use this willing vessel.



And now that I have returned home I wonder what God would have me do with all He has shown me. And I guess I need to believe that He can use me as much at home as He did there. And that I will pass that message on to those who are willing to hear it.

And that I will encourage those I come in contact with to...

Believe God.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Hand of God

Life is hard. God never promised it would be any other way. In fact, as the time of Christ’s returns draws closer, life is going to get harder. Sorry, but that’s the reality.

(We hate to admit it, but we all kind of know that time is getting closer, don’t we?)

God gave us a powerful tool to help with the hardness of life. “Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. … The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:13, 16).

I began my regular prayer time yesterday morning as I always do. However, only a short time into it, as I started praying for those in my life who are hurting and you know, dealing with stuff, my heart grew heavy.

I started only saying each person’s name. Sometimes I said an individual, sometimes a couple, sometimes whole families. Honestly, although I whispered each name aloud, in my head it sounded like a list of names read at a memorial event after a tragedy. One name…two…ten…twenty…thirty; I don’t know how long my list continued. Eventually, though, I came to the end. The Spirit didn’t prompt me with anymore names.

Then I thought, “Those are the people; how do I pray for such a list?”

I almost immediately had my answer, “Pray for the hand of God in their life.”

Yes, I thought, that’s it. That covers all of it. A hand offers provision for those in need yet still offers discipline for those needing correction. A hand can protect, communicate, and guide. How much more can these things be done when the might of the hand is the power of the one True God?


How does the hand of God cover it all?

After praying similarly this morning, I decided to look up verses about the hand of God. I wanted to see just how many ways the hand of God may work in our lives.

The hand of God…
  • Delivers us from slavery (Exodus 32:11).
  • Performs miracles (Deuteronomy 4:34).
  • Guides us where we need to go (Deuteronomy 5:15).
  • Disciplines us (Deuteronomy 11:2; 1 Chronicles 21:17; Job 19:21; Acts 13:11).
  • Offers impenetrable protection (Deuteronomy 32:39; John 10:28-29).
  • Brings judgment and vengeance upon His enemies (Deuteronomy 32:40-41, Matthew 3:12, Luke 3:17).
  • Is powerful (Joshua 4:24).
  • Causes the panic of His enemies (1 Samuel 5:11).
  • Brings about the fulfillment of His promises (1Kings 8:15).
  • Keeps us free from harm and pain (1 Chronicles 4:10).
  • Provides us with all we have, even what we return to Him (1 Chronicles 29:16).
  • Rules over the nations (2 Chronicles 20:6).
  • Gives us unity of mind (2 Chronicles 30:12).
  • Covers us in favor (Ezra 7:6; Nehemiah 2:8; Acts 11:21; et al).
  • Offers us protection (Job 12:6).
  • Helps the helpless (Psalm 10:12).
  • Is filled with righteousness (Psalm 48:10).
  • Provides us with work to do (Ecclesiastes 2:24).
  • Upholds us and guides us (Isaiah 41:10, 13).
  • Holds our reward (Isaiah 49:4, Isaiah 62:3).
  • Extends healing (Matthew 8:3, 15, 9:18, 25, et al).
  • Catches us when we fall (Matthew 14:31).
  • Protects us from our enemies (Luke 1:71, 74).
  • Created all things (Acts 7:50).
  • Brings us to a point of humility (1 Peter 5:6).
I know life is hard. I also know that no problem exists that isn’t covered under the hand of God. And that is my prayer for each of you today.


As we approach Passover season and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, I’m reminded of a final act of the hand of God… it was pierced for you.