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Sermon November 17, 2019

Princeton Presbyterian Church (EPC) Sermon # 1420

November 17, 2019 Isaiah 61.1-11

Dr. Ed Pettus

(This is an extended outline, not a verbatim transcript.)

 

“The God of Promise”

 

  • Isaiah 42.1-4 Promise Made

 

I know that you know that God keeps His promises. I just want you to know that I know you know! But we come to remind ourselves each Sunday that God keeps and fulfills His promises. So, today I want us to examine one particular promise that binds us to all of God’s promises. It is the promise of the Savior. In Isaiah that Savior is known as the suffering servant. He is recognized in several chapters like 42, 49-50, and 52-53. We are probably most familiar with the phrases of Isaiah 53 because it so vividly points us to Jesus. You know the passage: He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isa 53.3-5). God makes the promise in Isaiah 42 that He has put His Spirit on His servant.

 

42 Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. 2 He will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; 3 a bruised reed he will not break, and a faintly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. 4 He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

 

There is no doubt that we serve a God of promise. The promises of God are all over the Bible. The particular promises in this passage deal with this servant and what God promises to do through Him. Notice all the future promises: God promises to bring forth justice. Justice permeates the passage and role of the servant of God. Two times in Isaiah 42 we see the servant bringing justice, verse 1 and 3. He will bring justice and He will faithfully bring justice. It is all in the future. He will bring, He will not cry aloud, He will not lift up his voice.

Much of the language points to one particular characteristic of the servant of God and was certainly true of Jesus, humility. All of this unusual language points to a humble servant: will not cry aloud, will not lift voice, will not be heard in the street. He will not break a reed of quench a burning wick, but what He will do is faithfully bring forth justice. This is the Savior the Jews longed for and we Christians know has come. God has kept this promise.

 

  • Isaiah 61.1-11 Promise Kept

 

The passage I read for today, Isaiah 61, is the servant now proclaiming that God has indeed poured out His Spirit on Him. He has been anointed to do many things.

 

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion—to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. 4 They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. 5 Strangers shall stand and tend your flocks; foreigners shall be your plowmen and vinedressers; 6 but you shall be called the priests of the Lord; they shall speak of you as the ministers of our God; you shall eat the wealth of the nations, and in their glory you shall boast. 7 Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot; therefore in their land they shall possess a double portion; they shall have everlasting joy. 8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed. 10 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up,
so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.

 

In essence everything we see in this passage is bringing justice. Justice is good news brought to the poor, broken hearts bound up, captives set free, and the day of vengeance is probably a reference to judgment day when justice will prevail. This passage speaks of the inversion of all things through the word “instead”.

Verse 3 - to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;

Verse 7 - Instead of your shame there shall be a double portion; instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their lot;

 

This too is an expression of justice. All things wrong will be set right. All things unjust will be turned over.

 

Verse 8 brings up the repeated refrain of justice - 8 For I the Lord love justice; I hate robbery and wrong; I will faithfully give them their recompense, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. 9 Their offspring shall be known among the nations, and their descendants in the midst of the peoples; all who see them shall acknowledge them, that they are an offspring the Lord has blessed.

 

Again, all these verbs are future tense, in the form of promise. I will do it, says the Lord. I will bring justice because I hate unjust things like robbery and wrong doing. We are saddened by all the robbery and wrong doing in our world and we wish God would act now to bring justice. The promise lingers in our ears and on our hearts and yet we see on-going injustice that makes us angry and sad and yearning for God’s promise to be fulfilled. And yet, it has been fulfilled in a way. This is the now and not yet attribute of Jesus Christ. He has fulfilled this promise in full and yet we still wait for the final justice to arrive.

 

 

  • Luke 4.16-21 Promise Fulfilled

 

Let me read to you the promise fulfilled in Luke.

 

16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

 

Jesus quotes directly from the book of Isaiah and chapter 61. He then declares,“Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Wow! This pleases and stuns and eventually angers those who heard it. Jesus is saying that the promise of God for the Messiah has been fulfilled in Him. The promise is finalized, kept, fulfilled. And yet, there are so many more promises that have been kept and fulfilled as well as promises yet to be fulfilled. The evidence is clear that promises fulfilled give us complete confidence and trust that all God’s promises will be kept. We have so many promises in the Bible. God said things like, “I promise you a land, I promise you many descendants to inherit the land, I promise you a great name, I promise you peace, I promise that your life will be a blessing to the nations,” and then in the New Testament we are promised that Christ will come again, we will have victory over death, a new heaven and earth will be established, and many more.

We are promised many things in our world. Who has made promises to you? Who has kept them and who has broken them? Have the promises of society led to life? Have the promises of government been kept? Have the promises of humans always come through? What has God promised? Has God been faithful to His promises?

The answer to all those questions that do not involve God are sometimes or no. And the promises that deal with God, the answer to those questions is always yes. One of my favorite passages on the promises of God is from 2 Corinthians 1.18-20,

 

18 As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. 20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

 

The God who has made promises and is about the business of bringing them to fulfillment. The fulfillment is found in the person of Jesus Christ. God has performed His promises in Jesus. His proclamations all all fulfilled in Jesus. We come together every Sunday to reiterate the promises of God, the impossibilities of God – the miracles of God. We come together to remind ourselves that all of God’s promises are true and real and, while we have not realized all of them yet, we know that someday justice will prevail. Justice will be known in the redemption of all things – creation, time, people, everything.

There is still a measure of hope in those promises that we have not yet seen fulfilled, but, there is a track record of promises fulfilled that give us a sure and certain hope. We believe and we confess and we worship and we tell the Bible stories of promise that have been given over our lives. On those we do not yet see, we wait. Waiting is a part of promise. That is what we see in Isaiah 42.4, He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law.

So, we wait...

 

We wait for the new reality that has been and will be brought about because of the promises of God. We have promises for something new and vibrant unlike anything the world can offer. Something greater is to come – above all the false promises of the world. God acts to bring forth promises fulfilled.

 

How might we imagine our lives through the promises of God? How might these and other promises assist us in leading lives committed to Jesus Christ?

1. Having seen just these three passages, we know that God fulfills His promises. Therefore, our faith and trust in Him is affirmed and strengthened. (Faith)

2. God will bring justice to our world. While we wait, sometimes with the pain of injustice, we know that God will fulfill His promise for justice and, in the end, all things will be redeemed. (Justice)

3. God is the only real promise keeper. Yes, we often make and keep promises, but our human frailty means we may not be able to keep every promise as God can and does. (The God of Promise)

4. We live in a world that does not trust the promises of God and looks for promises in other places and also seeks to make promises to us that it knows it cannot keep or fulfill. (Things like free college or free health care!)

5. Lastly, the promises of God are hated by the world because they promise that the ways of the world will one day come to an end.

 

We know, we know that God has promised. We know, we know that God keeps His promises. We know, we know that God will fulfill every promise made. On that we will stake our lives. Amen.