Commentary by Walter Albritton


December 11, 2005


The Lord Gives Us the Strength We Need to Do His Work


Isaiah 49-50


Key Verse: The Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. – Isaiah 50:7


          Understanding Isaiah is no small task. The “Servant Songs,” while beautiful and inspiring, leave us puzzled as to the identity of the servant. Is the servant Israel as a nation, or Cyrus, or Isaiah himself, or the promised Messiah? If Israel, which Israel – the blind and wayward Israel or the idealized Israel?

          Depending on which verses you are reading, the answer surprisingly may be “all of the above.” Clearly, however, in many verses, such as 49:5-6, the prophet is speaking of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah, “who will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

          How can I take this position when others are convinced these verses refer to Israel, not to the Christ? Careful study of verse 6 indicates that a truer rendering of the words may be that the Lord has appointed the Servant “to be my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Christ is not merely the means to our salvation; he is our salvation!

          Old Testament Scholar John Oswalt argues that neither Israel nor any human prophet could restore, or bring back, Israel to God. Israel could not save itself anymore than you can save yourself. A Savior is needed for that task! The reference to “too light a thing” means, as Oswalt says, that the Servant’s mission “is the restoration of an estranged world, along with an estranged Israel, to God.” No man or nation can handle such an assignment!

          While such study as the above may be interesting, it may be more helpful to consider what kind of God we serve and how he wishes for us to serve him. That is the purpose of this lesson – to help us realize that God is graciously willing to give us all the strength we need to overcome pain and weariness so that we can faithfully serve him.

          Forget the lesson quarterly for a moment and turn in your Bible to chapters 49 and 50. Read them meditatively and observe what God is saying to you through the prophet’s writing. When you come across a phrase that is encouraging, repeat it several times to yourself, as though God is speaking to you today, in your present situation.

          Here are a few phrases that stirred my own soul as I read Isaiah 49-50 in the New Living Translation:

       “Listen to me, all of you. . . . “

       “You are my servant, . . . . and you will bring me glory.”

       “I will trust God for my reward.”

       “The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength.”

       “Sing for joy. . . Rejoice . . . Burst into song.”

       “See, I have written your name on my hand.”

       “Those who wait for me will never be put to shame.”

       “All the world will know that I, the Lord am your Savior and Redeemer.”

       “For I can speak to the sea and make it dry!”

       “Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.”

       “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed.”

       “See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side!”

       “If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.”

       “But watch out, you who live in your own light, and warm yourselves by your own fires.”

       Unless your wood is wet, several of those phrases will light your fire! There is power in the Word of God. Jesus is God’s Word. He speaks to us through Jesus. But he also speaks powerfully through the words of Holy Scripture. When I am discouraged, God can restore my soul as I let him speak to me through his Book.

          As we serve God Satan works overtime to discourage us. He shows us all the hypocrites in the church. He points out the phony Christians who “talk” the walk but do not “walk” the walk. Our service is criticized by fellow church members and we are belittled by unbelievers.

          We grow weary in the fight and Satan invites us to give up. That is when our fervor can be restored by reading, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed.” Then we can tell the devil to take a hike. We must learn not to flinch from pain and rejection for “the way of the Cross leads home”!

          We can work hard, do our best, and yet have little to show for all our effort. In those moments we begin to feel the Lord does not care, or he has forgotten us. What we are doing simply does not matter to him. He cares about the Pope and Billy Graham but we are insignificant nobodies. That is when I need to be reminded that God has written my name on his hand!

          He formed me in my mother’s womb! He called me to serve him. He loves me and Jesus died for me. He wakens me every morning. He opens my ear to hear his voice. Then I can cry, Thanks be to God! And I can sing “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he cares for me.” Hallelujah!

          Dear reader if you are discouraged by your pain and nursing battle scars earned from your service for the King, do not give up!  Run to Jesus. Ask him to renew your spirit. Ask him to give you the grace you need to remain faithful to your Savior to the end.

          Soon you will be rejoicing and singing as you burst forth in song. Soon you will be able to resist Satan and shout as he flees, “I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. . . for my God has given me strength”!

          The glory is that now you will be witnessing, without words, to believers and unbelievers alike, that the Lord your God is giving you all the strength you need to remain faithful in his work. Stay the course. You will soon be Home hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”!

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