Sunday January 24 2021

I AM HE

(A Study of Isaiah 41)

Part Two – I will not throw you away.

Last day we looked at verses 1-4 where God reminds us that He calls each new generation to accomplish and advance His good will and plan for the ages. And here He has summoned the “king of the East” – modern day China into His service. He reminds us that there is no other God and states “I am he.”

We pick up Isaiah 41 and consider today verses 5 through 9 given below from the NLT.

“The lands beyond the sea watch in fear. Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war. The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other, ‘Be strong!’ The carver encourages the goldsmith, and the molder helps at the anvil. ‘Good,’ they say. ‘It’s coming along fine.’ Carefully they join the parts together, then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over. But as for you, my servant Israel, Jacob my chosen one, descended from Abraham my friend, I have called you back from the ends of the earth, saying, ‘You are my servant..’ For I have chosen you and will not throw you away.” (underlining added)

“The lands beyond the sea watch in fear” is the Biblical reference to Isles or, in our modern times, oversea islands and continents. As events spin out of control during these last days these oversea communities react in fear. I am reminded of the words of Jesus as recorded by Dr. Luke chapter 21 verses 25-26.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken.”

Our generation is inundated with headlines springing from a spirit of fear. You can choose any day of the week and check out the “news stories’ and find a majority of opinions urging one to fear. Fear over what we eat, where we go, how we spend our spare time; fear over whom to believe, whom to visit, where to gather. We are to fear the Covid-19 virus, fear its second wave, fear the vaccine, fear not getting the vaccine; fear China, fear Russia, fear the Taliban, the followers of Hezbollah; fear white police officers, Indigenous officers, officers of colour. We have been inoculated with the venom of fear. “Men’s hearts failing them for fear and for looking after those things that are coming on the earth . . .” And yet, how oft does the Bible tells us to “fear not?”  Fear, especially that of nations, is always the precursor to war. As quoted above from Isaiah 41, “The lands beyond the sea watch in fear. Remote lands tremble and mobilize for war.” There’s the connect: nations watch in fear and tremble and mobilize for war.

To Whom are we Christians to turn when we sense feelings of fear? The LORD GOD Almighty, the Maker of heaven and earth, the First and the Last, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Alpha and Omega, the Messiah Jesus Christ, our Helper, our Friend, our Shield and High Tower, the One who has promised to never leave nor forsake us, the One True God, who holds our very lives within the hollow of His hand. “If God be for us, who is able to stand against?” (Romans 8:31) We are to “Cast all our cares upon Him for He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) So, as we return to Isaiah 41 let us keep in mind that it is directing its message to the Christ-rejecting Gentile world, with strong encouragements also to Israel. The LORD of HOSTS is in the process of re-gathering the Jewish people from the ends of the earth in order to vindicate His Great Name in the sight of the Gentiles. We need to understand that God is doing what He is doing in order to vindicate or sanctify His great Name. It is not that the Jewish people are holy, but rather the LORD GOD is holy. Listen to Ezekiel 36:22-24.

“Therefore give the people of Israel this message from the SOVEREIGN LORD” I am bringing you back but not because you deserve it. I am doing it to protect my holy name, on which you brought shame while you were scattered among the nations. I will show how holy my great name is – the name on which you brought shame among the nations. And when I reveal my holiness through you before their very eyes, says the SOVEREIGN LORD, then the nations will know that I am the LORD. For I will gather you up from all the nations and bring you home again to your land.” (NLT) More on this at a later time.

As we pick up Isaiah 41 again we see that the world is in fear and as a result begins to mobilize for war. Such statistics are beyond the scope of this message, but interested readers can “Google” the “Top 20 militaries in the world” to see the horrendous costs of mobilization at the expense of the nations general public’s needs. Mobilization is a direct consequence of fear and to whom do the nations turn in order to mitigate their fear? Isaiah 41 gives the answer.  

“The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other, ‘Be strong!’ The carver encourages the goldsmith, and the molder helps at the anvil. ‘Good,’ they say. ‘It’s coming along fine.’ Carefully they join the parts together, then fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over.”

The nations turn to their idols! And in the midst of such a dire time the LORD GOD, displays humour and sarcasm as He says, they even need “to fasten the thing in place so it won’t fall over.” Idols of blasphemy are everywhere. In every nation there are edifices, statues, images both fair and foul depicting creatures and man, structures erected to the glory of things and false gods and every one of them needs to be fastened in place so it won’t fall over. These things cannot even stand upon their own feet, let alone hear or speak. (refer to Psalm 115:2-9 for detail.) And one consequence of the shaking of the ‘heaven’ is to bring them all down to ruin. But Israel, who has been chosen, who is descended from Abraham, the friend of God, is called to turn back to the true God. As Psalm 20:7 once stated, “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.”

Our understanding of Psalm 121: 1-2 is critical in demonstrating these two contrary views of faith. The world looks to idols whereas the believer looks to the Creator. Listen. “I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth” (NLT). The Psalmist was regarding the blasphemous and fornicating pagan worship places upon the high hilltops populated by the false priests and priestesses, and he refused to align his faith with them but raised his eyes higher to glimpse the starry heavens and stated his allegiance to the Creator of heaven and earth. We too need to continually raise our vision.

In the eyes of the world things seem to be “coming along fine.” At least, that’s what they constantly try to opine. They put on a ‘brave face’ and pat each other on the back and urge one another to ‘stay-the-course.’ Yet, deep in their collective heart they are filled with fear and trepidation. The nations of the earth have always put their faith in idols. They put their faith in things, in programs, in science, in politicians, all impotent to save us. God choose a man – Abram, a practicing pagan worshipper from a pagan nation, to be the father of a new nation. God called Abram out and brought him into a new family. And through Abram, God created a new people, a new nation. God established His word in and through this man. It was not that the man was initially worthy or honourable or a man of faith but rather it was God’s word within the man that was worthy, honourable and faithful. And as Abram lived under this blessing of God he became, by action, a man of faith and honour. Abram eventually became Abraham, the father of many nations. But he was first and foremost the head of the Jewish nation, a new nation envisioned by the LORD GOD. Let’s be clear, it’s not that God looked over the earth and selected some pre-existing group or tribe to bless. No, He created a new thing. So let us not bemoan the fact that ‘our particular tribe’ wasn’t chosen. I can bemoan the fact that my Scottish tribe was not chosen; or another be upset because their tribe from Greece or China or Russia or First Nations wasn’t chosen. God started from ‘scratch,’ so to say, to create a nation that would be totally different and unique from all other tribes of the earth. Listen to Deuteronomy 14:2, “You have been set apart as holy to the LORD your GOD, and He has chosen you from all the nations of the earth to be His own special treasure” (NLT). And Leviticus 20:26, “You must be holy because I, the LORD am holy. I have set you apart from all other people to be my very own” (NLT).

However, due to Israel’s failure to be holy before their LORD GOD and specifically failure to receive His Messiah, Jesus, they fell under God’s condemnation. As a result of their reliance on self-worth, their religious leadership rejected their Messiah. Pride overcame faith and the nation was scattered. Listen to the words of Jesus their Messiah in Luke 19:43-44, “For the days shall come upon thee that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even to the ground, and thy children with thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knew not the time of thy visitation” (KJV).

Jesus had just entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to the acclaim of the people, allowing for the first time to be honoured as their king. He had wept over the city Jerusalem as he approached that day because he knew of his coming rejection. (See Luke 19 for details.) And because of the national rejection of their Messiah they were to be scattered about the globe. This was accomplished in 70 AD! However, as we come to verse 9 of Isaiah 41 we hear the promise of God: “I have chosen you and will not throw you away.” Some of us have wondered why God just didn’t roll us all up and throw us away when we failed in the garden and the multiple times since. God’s love is too deep to grasp at times. “I will not throw you away!” When we might be busy upon a potter’s wheel and the clay doesn’t turn out quite right we cast the clay aside and it lays shattered in a pile to one side. God is not like that. He picks up the shattered pieces of our lives and refashions them to create beautiful unique vessels for His Holy Spirit to infill. “I will not throw you away!” In our Isaiah 41 reference given at the beginning of this message, God encourages the scattered children of Israel by reminding them that He has called Abraham His friend. He then goes on the promise that He is calling the scattered of Israel back from the ends of the earth to the land that He has given them. This establishes for the reader the time frame of Isaiah 41 – during the time when Israel is returning to the land – during the time frame of our present day! I will give more Scriptural evidence of this re-gathering during a later message. For the moment let us consider what Paul had to say concerning all of this from the New Testament. I am including a good portion of Romans 11 for we need to grasp a fuller understanding of Jew and Gentile in God’s plan of salvation for the ages. Romans 11 NLT.

“I ask, then, has God rejected his own people, the nation of Israel? Of course not! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham and a member of the tribe of Benjamin. No, God has not rejected his own people, whom he chose from the very beginning. Do you realize what the Scriptures say about this? Elijah the prophet complained to God about the people of Israel and said, ‘LORD, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’ And do you remember God’s reply? He said, ‘No, I have 7000 others who have never bowed down to Baal.’ It is the same today, for a few of the people of Israel have remained faithful because of God’s grace – His underserved kindness in choosing them. And since it is through God’s kindness, then it is not by their good works. For in that case God’s grace would not be what it really is – free and undeserved. So this is the situation: Most of the people of Israel have not found the favour of God they are looking for so earnestly. A few have – the ones God has chosen – but the hearts of the rest were hardened. As the Scriptures say, ‘God has put them into a deep sleep. To this day he has shut their eyes so they do not see, and closed their ears so they do not hear.’ Likewise, David said, ‘Let their bountiful table become a snare, a trap that makes them think all is well. Let their blessings cause them to stumble, and let them get what they deserve. Let their eyes go blind so they cannot see, and let their backs be bent forever.’ Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves. Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it. I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead! And since Abraham and the other patriarchs were holy, their descendants will also be holy – just as the entire batch of dough is holy because the portion given as an offering is holy. For if the roots of the tree are holy, the branches will be too. But some of these branches from Abraham’s tree – some of the people of Israel – have been broken off. And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised to Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree. But you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch not the root.

‘Well,’ you may say, ‘Those branches were broken off to make room for me.’ Yes, but remember – those branches were broken off because they didn’t believe in Christ, and you are there because you do believe. So don’t think highly of yourself, but fear what could happen. For if God did not spare the original branches, he won’t spare you either. Notice, God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobey, but kind to you if  you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting you will be cut off. And if the people of Israel turn from their unbelief they will be grafted in again, for God has the power to graft them back into the tree.

I have included a rather large section of Romans 11 because it is important we understand. God has not and never will reject His people. They have been chastised – scattered away from the land – and during this time salvation has come to the Gentiles. And it will be during the time of the re-gathering of His people that Isaiah 41 addresses. “You are my servant,” says God concerning the people of Israel. They were His servant to be holy and separate from the nations of the earth. They were His servant in the giving of the law. They were His servant in preparing the way for the Messiah. They were His servant in birthing the Messiah as a Jew in the flesh. They were to be His servant in being light to the Gentiles. And now in these last days, they are to be His servant in demonstrating the power and faithfulness of the LORD GOD as the world watches the miracle of Israel’s return unfold before their eyes. Instead of bringing light to the Gentiles, when they rejected Messiah, it was the Gentiles who circled them about and cast them down and brought darkness to the Jewish people instead.

What can we take away from this? We have all come from the loins of Adam. Every Jew, every Greek, every person of colour, every nation, every tribe, every tongue; every man, every woman. We all bear in our flesh a sin-nature that can never be cast aside through our own efforts. No act of good works can ever release us from this. So, what was The Plan? God knew before hand what our situation would become. He was not caught off guard. At the moment of our profound failure God spoke over Eve addressing the Devil with these words: “the seed of the woman will crush your head.” The Seed, the Messiah, The One who would come to bring salvation to all mankind. Abram would be chosen to be the father of a new and unique nation. He would become Abraham and father a nation that would produce, centuries later, a young maiden – Mary, who would bring forth the promised Seed. He would take upon himself the sin of the entire world and open the way back to the garden. Christ, The Seed, planted into the earth to bound forth in bountiful resurrection three days later, casting down the kingdoms of Satan, crushing him beneath His feet. So now, whosoever will may come and receive salvation. And soon and very soon, this One will be coming again. Not as a lamb slain, but as the Lion of the tribe of Judah. To put to right all that is wrong. And there will ultimately be a gathering to worship Him who alone is holy from every nation, tribe and tongue – Gentiles all, with our Jewish brothers and sisters.

And this wonderful climatic moment will be ushered in by the re-gathering of the scattered remnant of Israel from the far reaches of the earth. Isaiah 41 has spoken it.

“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads, for your redemption draws nigh” (Luke 21:28 KJV) . . .to be continued.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

Father God I choose this day to set aside all fear. I choose instead to trust in Your word which instructs me to “fear not.“ I determine to lay aside all cares and to trust in the One who cares for me. I acknowledge You as the LORD over all creation and Your right to be lord of my life. I submit my ways into Your gentle care. I will trust in what You say through Your word and not trust in the words of this world system. I acknowledge my need for You in every aspect of my life. From my rising in the morning to my laying down of my head I will glory in Your Name. I will listen to the voice of Your Holy Spirit for instruction and guidance. I commit to praying for my brothers and sisters in the LORD and for those still seeking Your light. I will, with your help, endeavour to apply the gifts given me and I determine this day to guard my tongue. In all things I honour You this day. Amen.

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