Light for the Last Days

SHORT TALK

“For the Lord God will help Me;
Therefore I will not be disgraced;
Therefore I have set My face like a flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.

Isaiah 50.7

As the famous verse says “I will set My face like a flint”, and if you’ve been coming to these meetings, you may remember that I told you that Isaiah 40 through to 53 is made up of prophetic words given by the prophet Isaiah to the Jewish people in their time of captivity when they were in Babylon.

I believe it was written before it happened. So Isaiah was speaking into the situation before it had actually happened, and he gave these wonderful words from this section of the Bible.

One of the themes that you have in this section is the concept of the servant of the Lord. In fact, the phrase ‘the servant of the Lord’ or ‘the servant’ or ‘my servant’ is mentioned 17 times between chapter 40 and chapter 53.

Most often, the prophecies there deal with Israel as the servant of the Lord: Israel who has been called to be God’s witness to the world. But on 4 occasions, the prophecy goes beyond Israel as a servant nation and talks about the One who is to be ‘the servant to the servant nation’. That One is the Messiah.

You have 4 servant songs in chapter 42, chapter 49, chapter 50, and in chapter 53 in which God is speaking of the Messiah who is going to come to save us from our sins.

These messages speak particularly about Yeshua/Jesus the Messiah in some very graphic and detailed passages including the one we need to read tonight which speaks about the Messiah and applies to Jesus.

Let’s read Isaiah 50, and I’ll read a bit of Isaiah 51 as well.

Thus says the Lord:

“Where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce,
Whom I have put away?
Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you?
For your iniquities you have sold yourselves,
And for your transgressions your mother has been put away.
Why, when I came, was there no man?
Why, when I called, was there none to answer?
Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?
Indeed with My rebuke I dry up the sea,
I make the rivers a wilderness;
Their fish stink because there is no water,
And die of thirst.
I clothe the heavens with blackness,
And I make sackcloth their covering.”

Isaiah 50.1-3

And now comes the part where Isaiah speaks about the Messiah, starting from verse 4.

“The Lord God אֲדֹנָי יְהֹוִה [ădōnāy yhwh] has given Me
The tongue of the learned,
That I should know how to speak
A word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning,
He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
The Lord God אֲדֹנָי יְהֹוִה [ădōnāy yhwh] has opened My ear;
And I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.
I gave My back to those who struck Me,
And My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard;
I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.

“For the Lord God אֲדֹנָי יְהֹוִה [ădōnāy yhwh] will help Me;
Therefore I will not be disgraced;
Therefore I have set My face like a flint,
And I know that I will not be ashamed.
He is near who justifies Me;
Who will contend with Me?
Let us stand together.
Who is My adversary?
Let him come near Me.
Surely the Lord God אֲדֹנָי יְהֹוִה [ădōnāy yhwh] will help Me;
Who is he who will condemn Me?
Indeed they will all grow old like a garment;
The moth will eat them up.

10 “Who among you fears the Lord?
Who obeys the voice of His Servant עַבְדּ֑וֹ [ʿabdô]?
Who walks in darkness
And has no light?
Let him trust in the name of the Lord יְהוָה [yhwh]
And rely upon his God בֵּאלֹהָיו׃ [bēʾlōhāyw].
11 Look, all you who kindle a fire,
Who encircle yourselves with sparks:
Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled—
This you shall have from My hand:
You shall lie down in torment.

Isaiah 50.4-11

“Listen to Me, you who follow after righteousness,
You who seek the Lord יְהוָה [yhwh]:
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
And to the hole of the pit from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father,
And to Sarah who bore you;
For I called him alone,
And blessed him and increased him.”

For the Lord יְהוָה [yhwh] will comfort Zion צִיּ֗וֹן [ṣiyyôn],
He will comfort all her waste places;
He will make her wilderness like Eden,
And her desert like the garden of the Lord כְּגַן־יְהוָה [kǝgan-yhwh];
Joy and gladness will be found in it,
Thanksgiving and the voice of melody.

Isaiah 51.1-3

Praise the Lord!

Well, what is this about? If we go back to this passage here, in the first few verses, it is a message for Israel in Babylon. Now, the Israelites didn’t want to be in Babylon, it was a judgment for sin, for worshiping other gods. And they were taken by King Nebuchadnezzar to Babylon, the Temple was destroyed, Jerusalem was destroyed and they were taken to this foreign city, to Babylon and there they sat down and they wept when they remembered Zion.


By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested mirth,
Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion צִיּ֗וֹן [ṣiyyôn]!”

Psalm 137.1-3

It was a bad place to be. And many of them might have felt that they were abandoned by God. They might have lost hope, they may have felt like a divorced wife which is the description this passage begins with. The image of the divorced wife is used in the prophets, particularly in the prophet Hosea to speak about God as the husband and Israel as the wife.

The divorced wife feels that she has been abandoned by her husband and, in this passage here, God is comforting Zion, speaking His word to them, speaking the Word to them in their doubts and in their fears.

They would be saying: ‘You don’t care‘. And God would say in return: ‘You say I don’t care about you anymore. You say I’ve divorced you. Very well then, produce your document because there is none. I haven’t divorced you. You’ve separated yourself from me.’

Thus says the Lord:

“Where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce,
Whom I have put away?
Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you?
For your iniquities you have sold yourselves,
And for your transgressions your mother has been put away.
Why, when I came, was there no man?
Why, when I called, was there none to answer?
Is My hand shortened at all that it cannot redeem?
Or have I no power to deliver?

Isaiah 50.1-3

It says there, ‘Where is the document?‘ And the idea is: it’s not there! God hasn’t divorced you. ‘You separate yourself from Me.‘ That’s what this passage is saying.

There is a verse in Isaiah chapter 59 where it says,

Behold, the Lord’s hand יַד־יְהוָה [yad-yhwh] is not shortened,
That it cannot save;
Nor His ear heavy,
That it cannot hear.
But your iniquities have separated you from your God אֱלֹהֵיכֶם [ʾĕlōhêkem];
And your sins have hidden His face from you,
So that He will not hear.
For your hands are defiled with blood,
And your fingers with iniquity;
Your lips have spoken lies,
Your tongue has muttered perversity.

No one calls for justice,
Nor does any plead for truth.
They trust in empty words and speak lies;
They conceive evil and bring forth iniquity.

Isaiah 59.1-4

In other words God’s saying ‘you’re the problem’, not God. Sometimes, people say that God seems very distant. Have you ever said that? Have you ever felt like that God feels very distant?

Somebody once said that to a preacher, ‘God feels very distant’, and the preacher said ‘Well, God hasn’t moved‘.

God hasn’t moved. You’re the one who’s moved. You’re the one who’s moved away from God so you don’t feel that He’s there. And trouble comes because of our non-response to God’s calls. We don’t respond and that’s the whole issue that God is dealing with here in this section of Isaiah.

21 So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

Genesis 1.21

21 They have provoked Me to jealousy by what is not God;
They have moved Me to anger by their foolish idols.
But I will provoke them to jealousy by those who are not a nation; I will move them to anger by a foolish nation.

Deuteronomy 32.21

He’s saying, ‘Come to me and I will give you the answer.’ God is there. God’s not absent. God is there with you and it’s a enduring problem.

It is not just a problem these people in Babylon had, it’s a problem which goes right through the ages. Where is God when trouble comes? Why doesn’t God show up when we’re in need?

Then the heads of the fathers’ houses of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and the Levites, with all whose spirits God had moved, arose to go up and build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem.

Ezra 1.5

20 knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21 for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

2 Peter 1.20-21

Yesterday Barbara and I went to a play in the West End. It’s called ‘Rose‘, I think. It’s played by a man called Martin Sherman and Maureen Lipman did a monologue for two hours. I think my sermons along talking for two hours at the West End.

The play was actually based on the life of the author’s grandmother. It was literally about the troubles of the Jewish people throughout the 20th century and began with the pogroms in Ukraine carried out by the Cossacks where Jews were killed in the Ukraine where the lady Rose’s father was killed.

She then fled to Warsaw and, to begin with, she had quite a good life in in Poland; met a man, got married, had a child. Then the Nazis came and they and you know what happened to the Jewish people.

They ended up in the Warsaw Ghetto. During the uprising in the ghetto, her husband and her child were both killed. It was recorded that, as the Nazi put the gun on her son’s head, his last word was ‘Palestine’.

It was still Palestine in those days, and she was just expressing the hope of the return of the Jewish people to Eretz Israel, to the land of Israel.

So her husband and the child were killed, and Rose survived and she ended up in the sewers of Warsaw where she survived the war. Having survived the war, she then ended up in a internment camp in Germany, and she was hoping to get out of there to get to Israel.

The Haganah came along and rescued her. The Haganah, the Jewish Defense League, came and rescued her and they took her down to a place called Sète which is in the south of France.

If you know the story of The Exodus, the ship The Exodus sailed from Sète to Palestine. That was at the time of then British Mandate over Palestine. It was organized by some Americans who targeted this ship and got it onto sea. It was a bit of a ramshackle ship, but they managed to get a huge number of Jewish Exiles, Jewish refugees onto the ship to get them to Palestine.

Unfortunately, at the time, the British who had the Mandate and control over Palestine (between 1945 and 1948) were doing everything they could to keep Jews out of Palestine, and they sent the ships to intercept it and were extremely brutal.

It was one of the most shameful periods in our history. Britain actually prevented Jewish people who were refugees, who’d come out of the Holocaust, from being able to get back to Palestine.

Article

Not long after that, the British Empire fell to bits by the way, but that is another story.

However, this what this lady was on the ship SS Exodus, a famous ship, which is also the subject of the film which some of you may have seen.

And as they got near to Palestine, the British ships came along and escorted them got off at Haifa, There, Rose got off the ship and kissed the ground and was promptly taken into internment, then put on a ship out of Palestine, out of Israel and back to where she had come from, and eventually, back to Germany.

She ended up in Hamburg. This incident by the way, was much filmed and much talked about in the news. The Americans were furious with the British with what they had done. It was very bad publicity. It was one of the things which actually caused the British to give up the Mandate over Palestine and to pull out.

That, pulling out of Palestine, was a good thing because they were doing a bad job. They handed the land over to the UN and the UN passed the resolution to partition Palestine.

Out of that, came the establishment of the state of Israel in May 1948.

Meanwhile, and coming back to Rose, she was in Hamburg. On the ship she had met an American sailor who was actually called Mr Rose. I can’t remember what his first name was, but his second name was Rose. They became friendly and as she got off the boat and got onto the place where they were putting all the refugees on a train to take them from Hamburg down to a camp in Germany which was a concentration camp. They were being sent back there. And the man Rose said, ‘Get off, jump off the train Rose’. She did, she got off the train and he took her to America where they got married. So, she became Rose. It was a joke the author used several times.

Having got to America, she had a much more successful life. She ended up working in Atlantic City, then down in Florida but she was still involved with Israel.

She had a son. Her son went to Israel on a Kibbutz as a holiday, and on the Kibbutz he met a girl, and ended up marrying the girl. They ended up making Aliyah.

One of the tricks was that the girl was not Jewish, but she converted to Judaism and went back to Israel, and became more Zionist than he was.

Unfortunately, the marriage broke up and her grandson’s daughter left him. She then married a radical settler in the West Bank near Hebron, and he they had a child. He was involved with some kind of uprising against the Arabs and he ended up killing an Arab girl who was nine years old and the last word in the Arab girls’ lips was ‘Palestine’.

They put these 2 mentions of the word ‘Palestine’ together: her son’s last word had been ‘Palestine’ and now this girl’s last word was also ‘Palestine’, so it was an ironic moment for them.

The monologue went into some kind of liberal Jewish guilt speech about what the Jews are doing to the Arabs in the West Bank and feeling sorry for that, and it questioned the whole situation. And that is part of the present unrest in Israel.

Nevertheless, behind it all, every single time she kept coming up with all these disasters, there was a question: ‘Where’s God? Where is God in all this? Why doesn’t God help us? Why doesn’t God show up when we need Him‘.

It was a theme which went right through the play. I think the person who wrote it was not a believer of any sort so, we were just left with that question: ‘Where was God?’

It seemed to me typical of people’s suffering and, in particularly, of Jewish people suffering. And, having gone through all the suffering, they asked the question: ‘Where’s God? If God was with the Covenant people, if God is with the chosen people, why doesn’t God look after us and remove all that suffering?

It is a question which, in a sense, comes back to what we’re looking at in this passage of Isaiah.

From our point of view, God is there. He is not distant, He is always there. And whoever calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved.

28 “And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh אֶשְׁפֹּוךְ אֶת־רוּחִי [ʾešpôk ʾet-rûḥî];
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
29 And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit אֶשְׁפֹּוךְ אֶת־רוּחִי [ʾešpôk ʾet-rûḥî] in those days.

30 “And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth:
Blood and fire and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness,
And the moon into blood,
Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord יֹום יְהוָה הַגָּדֹול וְהַנֹּורָא׃ [yôm yhwh haggādôl wǝhannôrāʾ].
32 And it shall come to pass
That whoever calls on the name of the Lord אֲשֶׁר־יִקְרָא בְּשֵׁם יְהוָה [ʾăšer-yiqrāʾ bǝšēm yhwh]
Shall be saved.
For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance,
As the Lord has said,
Among the remnant whom the Lord calls.

Joel 2.28-32

He is also watching and weeping over the wickedness of humanity, especially in the manifestations which we saw in the Nazi Germany. He is weeping over the sufferings of His Jewish people.

My God, My God אֵלִי אֵלִי [ʾēlî ʾēlî], why have You forsaken Me?
Why are You so far from helping Me,
And from the words of My groaning?
O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear;
And in the night season, and am not silent.

But You are holy,
Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Our fathers trusted in You;
They trusted, and You delivered them.
They cried to You, and were delivered;
They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.

Psalm 22.1-5

Also, He is overseeing events, especially the restoration of Israel as a nation, which is in preparation for the return of the Messiah. But He is there for all who call upon Him in the person of Yeshua the Messiah.

He is the One who has prophesied in the verses which follow this.

If we want to find peace whether we’re Jewish or Gentile, we have to find a contact with God and God is not absent, no matter how bad the situation is. Even when we are hearing from Kyuwon about North Korea; God is still there and He is there to help those who call upon Him.

But to find peace, you need to find Yeshua the Messiah. And the tragedy, I mean the tragedy even abundant in Israel is that people are looking for peace, looking for the answer everywhere else: maybe in yoga, maybe in LGBT, maybe in socialism, maybe in materialism, maybe in humanism, maybe in Liberal Orthodox or ultra-orthodox Judaism.

All of those are ways in which Jewish people are looking to find the answer. But the answer is in Yeshua and until you turn to Yeshua, you won’t have the answer.

This passage points us to Yeshua as the Messiah. In verse 3 of this passage, it says,

I clothe the heavens with blackness,
And I make sackcloth their covering.”

Isaiah 50.3

That is kind of the result of non-belief: that the heavens are His blackness. There is no contact and we’re wearing sackcloth, clothes of mourning.

Tony Pearce

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