A new year always brings new challenges. But we can lean on the age-old promises of God for
NEW STRENGTH AND NEW COURAGE FOR A NEW YEAR. It is time to focus on our Year Verse for 2015 – actually, based on where we are providentially in the Book of Isaiah, I have chosen 2 verses for our church – we already preached on 40:31 – NEW STRENGTH; today we will add 41:10 as we cover verses 8-10 of chapter 41 – NEW COURAGE.
At Solid Rock Community Church, we emphasize the solid foundation of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there are a number of fundamental certainties built upon this solid foundation. We appreciate the importance of certainties in life – certainties that include much more than death and taxes. Often our immediate physical circumstances and the pressures of our trials seem more real than the spiritual truths about who we are in Jesus Christ.
Sometimes you feel that nothing is going your way; everything seems to be attacking you; this can be overwhelming; Fear and Anxiety mount until life seems paralyzing.
5 FOUNDATIONAL CERTAINTIES FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
– affect our mind – enlightening certainties – Should change how we think
– affect our emotions — encouraging certainties – Should change how we feel
– affect our will — empowering certainties — Should change how we act
We all need to memorize these verses; pray over them
But is it even right to apply these verses to ourselves in any sense? We know that Isaiah was prophecying about the nation of Israel – his message particularly directed to the southern kingdom of Judah – warning them of their coming Babylonian captivity because of their sin. Yet he looked forward to deliverance under Cyrus the king of Persia and even further down the road to the ministry of the coming Messiah.
What does this have to do with Christians today?
We like to emphasize the distinctiveness of God’s program for the nation Israel. He still will keep His covenant promises to the nation regarding their land and a physical kingdom on earth.
But we must maintain as well the continuity of how God deals with His people down through the ages. We are all children of Abraham by faith. When it comes to the spiritual blessings of the kingdom, we fully participate right now. The truths of this passage, while they have immediate interpretation to Judah’s historical situation, have definite application to us as the people of God.
I. CHOSEN TO BE SECURE IN GOD’S LOVE – KEY TO FAMILY IDENTITY
3 IDENTIFICATIONS OF THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Who doesn’t want the love and security of being treasured in the family of God?
A. Servant Relationship – Privileged with Great Expectations for Future Blessing
“But you, Israel, My servant,”
Contrast with the nations from the remote lands with their reliance on false idols (vv.1-7)
Stedman: The title “My servant” is an honorable one: it was given to great leaders like Moses (Num. 12:7), David (2 Sam. 3:18), the prophets (Jer. 7:25), and Messiah (Isa. 42:1).
Young: In her there must be inculcated the truth that although the promises had been hers, she was nevertheless but a servant, who must do not her own will but the will of her covenant and electing God. To learn this lesson she must pass through the humiliation of the exile, from which she would be delivered only by God’s grace and His appointed instrument Cyrus. She must also learn that from the bondage of sin, which was the root of her misfortunes, she could be delivered only by One who, in a far truer sense than she herself, was a Servant of the Lord, to whom no other could be compared.
Do you view yourself as a Servant of God?
– In attitude, a willing and cheerful servant – dedicated to the will of God
– In deed, faithful and diligent
No room for pride; at the end of the day we still look back on whatever we have done and testify that we are but a servant who has not merit in ourselves or even in our accomplishments
B. Covenantal Relationship – Completely Unworthy but shown Unimaginable Favor
“Jacob whom I have chosen,”
Grogan: The name Israel suggests what God is determined to make of his people (Gen 32:28), while the name Jacob indicates that God loves them and has chosen them despite their demerit.
Name change – from “heel-catcher” or “deceiver” to “he struggles with God”
“you have striven with God and prevailed”
You remember the reputation of Jacob – a deceiver – that is what his name means, a conniver —
You have been chosen by God for salvation. What does that mean to you? Doctrine of election should be precious to God’s people. We only chose Him because He first chose us.
Speaks to the Grace of God
Speaks to our value to God as His precious possession
Speaks to our security in the relationship – no one can take us out of the Father’s hand
Maybe someone might want to argue that they are not a believer because they feel that God has not chosen them. They try to use this as an excuse not to obey the universal command to respond to the gospel invitation with repentance and faith. Friends, you can never blame God. He says the door is open. He puts the invitation out there. This doctrine of Election isn’t for unbelievers to wrestle with. It is intended as an encouragement for believers. If you are not yet in the family of God you cannot use this as an excuse. Are you more wicked and impossible to save than the people of Nineveh? They could have used that same argument – we are not the chosen people of God like Jonah. Yet they repented at the preaching of Jonah. You have the opportunity to repent as well.
C. Friendship Relationship
“descendant of Abraham My friend,”
Even in the Middle East today, Abraham still known by this expression “friend of God”
Vine: Three times Abraham is called the friend of God: in 2 Chron. 20:7 (“Abraham, your friend forever”), in the prayer of Jehoshaphat; here, in the Divine confirmation of this; and in Jas. 2:23, which combines God’s dealings with Abraham with this passage in Isaiah. The word rendered “friend” denotes one who is loving and beloved, an object of desire, and one who enjoys the utmost intimacy.
K&D: Every word here breathes the deepest affection. . . Inasmuch then as, on looking back to its past history, it could not fail to perceive that it was so thoroughly a creation of divine power and grace, it ought not to be fearful, and look about with timidity and anxiety; for He who had presented Himself at the very beginning as its God, was still always near.
Are you secure in God’s Love? Confident of your identity in the family of God?
– Live each day as a servant of God
– Rest in the security of having been chosen by God before the foundation of the world
– Develop your intimate relationship of friendship with the Living God – what a privilege
“What a Friend We Have In Jesus”
What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear; what a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer. O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.
II. CALLED TO FOLLOW GOD’S GUIDING HAND = KEY TO DISCIPLESHIP
Who doesn’t want to Follow the Lord Jesus Christ along the pathway to maturity and fruitfulness?
“You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,”
“And called from its remotest parts”
Look at the different levels of reference in God’s dealings with His people – one foreshadows the other until you get to ultimate fulfillment
– calling of Abraham from Ur – great distance – must walk by faith into the unknown
– regathering of Israel after the Babylonian Captivity
– ultimate regathering of Israel in the end times
For Abraham to follow God’s calling, he had to leave something behind = his former life; everything that was comfortable and familiar; set out on a journey of faith and submission; maybe you reject the calling of God because you are scared of the unknown – What is Jesus going to ask of me? Just remember that Satan wants you as a disciple as well. If you continue on that road, nothing awaits but eternal separation from God in hell. The pathway of discipleship is part of our humbling ourselves to admit that God knows better what is best for us.
Vine: God’s calling is always effectual. We may remind ourselves of this in our own experience in connection with the sphere of service allotted to us. If it has not been a matter simply of our choice and decision, it is ours by reason of His plan and appointment and the directing power of the Holy Spirit.
Ephes. 2:11-13 “Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands — remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Surprising and dramatic elevation of our status from remote nobodies to disciples being personally led by the Master Himself
We have been called to Follow the Lord Jesus Christ … what does that mean? 4 Things:
– It means that we should have the same character and value system – putting an emphasis on internal righteousness and love for others as we see in the Sermon on the Mount; Paul exhorts believers to “Imitate me as I imitate Jesus Christ”
– It means that we should strive for the same type of commitment and priority on doing the will of God – the pathway of discipleship – “Follow Me” – “Seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness”
– It means that we should have the same compassion for evangelism and seeking after the salvation of the lost – “Follow Me and I will make you Fishers of men” – “I came to seek and to save those who are lost”
– It means that we must be willing to join in the sufferings of Christ, to deny ourselves and to daily take up our cross and follow Jesus
So our calling is not to some free ticket to get out of Hell; our calling is to a life of holiness; our calling is a heavenly calling to “keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1); Described as a high calling (Phil. 3:14)
But we don’t determine our own course through life; we have the providential guiding of the Holy Spirit who indwells us; Are we confident in His guiding or do we think that as we have trusted Him with our lives, He has somehow messed things up and put us into a situation where He has left us on our own? Abraham thought that at times when trials like famine came to him and He turned His back on His calling and fled to Egypt for help; Never lose confidence in your calling; Jesus still wants to direct your life today; Follow Him; turn to Him for help and deliverance
Eternal Security – Rom. 11:29 “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable”
Perseverance is needed – 2 Pet. 1:10 “Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you;”
III. COMMISSIONED TO SERVE GOD = KEY TO PURPOSE IN LIFE
Who doesn’t want to live with a passion and a purpose?
Nothing wrong with living a “Purpose driven life” – as long as it is oriented towards glorifying God and being His faithful servant
Here, Isaiah puts the focus on the same three areas that he spoke of in Point #1 back at the beginning of vs. 8
A. Servant Relationship
“And said to you, You are My servant,”
B. Covenantal Relationship
“I have chosen you”
C. Friendship Relationship – Additional emphasis here – point that we will try to drive home
“and not rejected you.”
How do you know that someone is truly your friend? When they never reject you; never turn their back on you
Fitch: Israel must not think that the exile implies any absolute rejection of the chosen race. This is discipline and not abandonment by their God.
This expression lies at the heart of why I am a dispensationalist and not an amill, covenant theologian. There must still be the literal fulfillment of God’s promises to the nation of Israel. Despite all of their sin, He promises that He has not utterly rejected them. He will keep His unconditional promises. Romans 11
What does that mean for us today in the Church Age? Christ has promised never to reject His own; never to leave us or forsake. He reiterates that in His Great Commission charge – we know what we have been commissioned to pursue; we must be driven by the purpose of being instruments of our Lord Jesus Christ in the building of His church. If that means that now He wants to send us to the remotest parts of the world … so be it. If He wants to keep us in this area, so be it. All of our decisions in life must revolve around this sense of our divine commissioning.
What is your purpose for living today? If you are tempted to lose heart and feel that God is not paying attention to your troubles, turn to this verse. He has not rejected you. Even when you sin, He calls you back to Himself.
IV. COMFORTED BY THE ABIDING PRESENCE OF GOD TO COMBAT FEAR WITH FAITH AND COURAGE = KEY TO EXPERIENCING GOD’S PEACE
Who doesn’t want to be free from their fears and anxieties?
Who doesn’t want the Good Shepherd to cause us to lie down in green pastures; to lead us beside the quiet waters, to restore my soul, to guide me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake, to comfort me with His rod and staff, to prepare a table before me in the presence of mine enemies, to anoint my head with oil, to cause my cup to overflow, to surround me with His goodness and lovingkindness all the day of my life and to cause me to dwell in the house of the Lord forever! (Ps. 23)
Christ says He came so that we might experience His peace – that type of peace where when the storms rage about us, we can sleep peacefully even as He demonstrated on the boat in the Sea of Galilee
A. Antidote for Fear = Presence of God – in the context of a personal relationship
“Do not fear, for I am with you” – Believe this
Stedman: 41:1 – 44:28 In this section of the book the Lord seven times says, “Fear not!” to His people (41:10, 13, 14; 43:1, 5; 44:2, 8). As the Jewish remnant faced the challenge of the long journey home and the difficult task of rebuilding, they could think of many causes for fear. But there was one big reason not to be afraid: The Lord was with them and would give them success. . . In contrast to the fear experienced by the Gentile nations is the confidence shown by Israel, God’s chosen servant (41:8-13), because God was working on their behalf. In spite of their past rebellion, Israel was not cast away by the Lord.
Charles Stanley: Nature of Fear — Why is fear so damaging? Because it is as though we constantly have a message playing in our mind, telling us to be afraid. We are programmed early in life by others to be anxious concerning relationships or certain situations, and that fear continually torments and punishes us—paralyzing us from doing God’s will. Our worries dominate all our goals and desires, blocking our spiritual growth and preventing us from building our faith. This does not honor God in the least; in fact, our anxiety is a way of saying we do not think God is powerful enough to protect us. We become increasingly doubtful of the Lord’s powerful promises. Since we don’t trust God, we begin to assess and respond to His circumstances in our own strength and reasoning power. The result is that we come up empty in life. Fear simply does not fit the life of a child of God. We may have moments of fear, but we should handle them quickly, remembering God’s promise that He will use all things for our benefit and His glory.
B. Antidote for Anxiety = Power of God – in the context of a personal relationship
“Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.” – Take courage … God is on your side
Look in dismay; gaze about in anxiety
Young: The verb has reference to those who are fearful and hence look about in all directions to see whether there is anything that can harm them. This is not for Israel, for God is with her.
If He is not your God … you should fear … you should anxiously look about you … you are on dangerous ground; the guillotine of God’s wrath could fall at any moment; you have resource for deliverance from the power of sin; no enablement for victorious living
There is no power over sin apart from Christ; There can be external window dressing … but nothing that fools God
Don’t forget God’s charge to Joshua as he took over the mantle of leadership from Moses:
Joshua 1:1-9 still true for us today
V. CONFIRMED BY THE ENABLING GRACE OF GOD = KEY TO VICTORIOUS CHRISTIAN LIVING
Who doesn’t want to live the victorious Christian life?
A. Strength / Power in your weakness – Weakness is no excuse for Fear or Anxiety
“I will strengthen you,”
Vine: fortifying in weakness, difficulty and opposition
Is. 40:31 “Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.”
Psalm 80:17 “Let Your hand be upon the man of Your right hand, Upon the son of man whom You made strong for Yourself.”
B. Sufficiency / Enablement to accomplish the will of God – Inability is not excuse for Fear or Anxiety
“surely I will help you,”
Vine: assistance – giving guidance, direction and protection
Isaiah 41:13-14 “For I am the LORD your God, who upholds your right hand, Who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you. Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the LORD, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”
C. Sustenance / Support to persevere – Weariness is no excuse for Fear or Anxiety
“Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Psalm 41:12 “As for me, You uphold me in my integrity, And You set me in Your presence forever.”
Grogan: The threefold affirmation of strength comes to its consummation in a reference to the righteous right hand of God, a reminder possibly of the tender strength of the Shepherd-King in 40:9-11.
Vine: right hand is associated with the idea of power and success, and suggests prosperity.
Young: To Israel this righteousness will be a blessing; but to the nations who know Him not, the righteousness will appear in the punitive and retributive justice meted out for their wickedness.
Never be moved or shaken
5 BEDROCK CERTAINTIES FOR THE PEOPLE OF GOD
“How Firm a Foundation”
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.