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Home For Middle Easterners ‘The everlasting kindness and compassion of God’ Isaiah 54:1-59:21 Text

‘The everlasting kindness and compassion of God’ Isaiah 54:1-59:21 Text

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‘The everlasting kindness and compassion of God’     Isaiah 54:1-59:21        

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When World War 2 ended in Europe in May 1945, a massive party began. People poured onto the streets to celebrate the arrival of peace with singing and dancing. The cost of peace was appalling, but with it came new hope for the future and the promise of better life.

 

 

This is the picture as we move into the next part of Isaiah’s vision. Isaiah gets into party mode. But we need to do a little revision to make sure we understand why.

 

 

Turn back to Isaiah 40:1-2 . God’s people were in exile in Babylon. Broken-hearted and provoked by their rebellion, God had kicked them out of the family home. That part of the story was played out in chapters 1-39.

 

 

But God never gave up on his people, and, as a tender-hearted father intended to bring his wayward children home, forgive them, and give them the good life he always wanted them to have in relationship with him.

 

 

This story of salvation and restoration is played out in chapters 40-66 as Isaiah looks into the future in his mind’s eye of faith, even while God’s people are still in exile in Babylon. The opening words offer comfort and promise complete restoration for God’s people.  

 

 

But as the story develops, a huge question comes more and more to the surface, and demands an answer.

 

 

How will the Lord be able to offer forgiveness and reconciliation for his people, especially when he knows they will continue to sin and rebel? Look at Isaiah 48:8-11 .

 

 

God’s answer is in the mysterious figure called the servant of the Lord.

 

 

God’s people needed much more physical deliverance from Babylon. They needed spiritual deliverance, renewal from the inside out that would deal with their sin and clear the way to new relationship with God.

 

 

Isaiah 53 tells how God’s special servant would pay the appalling cost of forgiveness and restoration of the relationship. The servant’s suffering would bring God’s people back home into the good life and relationship with God which he always intended for them.

 

 

So, as we move into chapter 54, we have a call to celebrate God’s salvation achieved through the suffering servant. (54:1-55:13)

 

 

This section starts, Isaiah 54:1 , with a call for God’s people to burst into song, and ends, Isaiah 55:12-13 with a picture of the physical creation itself also bursting forth in song.

 

 

Why would Isaiah picture this when Psalm 137 pictures the exact opposite- that the lord’s people in exile were so shattered that it was weeping rather than singing that came naturally?  What could possibly change their view of the future so much?

 

 

Answer: The achievement of God’s special servant. Through him peace is finally established (54:1-17).  54:10 a new peace treaty will be the reality of the future.

 

 

Just as peace at the end of World War 2 marked the end of hostilities and the beginning of rebuilding and new relationships, so in Isaiah’s vision. Look at Is 53:5. There was an appalling cost to pay in order to secure peace, but the servant paid the price.

 

 

What are the benefits? Hostility between God and his people because of their sin and rebellion will cease. They will be restored to full relationship with their father. The enjoyment of all God had promised them, but which had eluded them for so long because of their sin, would now be theirs without restraint.

 

 

The father they had experienced momentarily as angry judge, 54:7-8, would now be enjoyed for his unfailing love, everlasting kindness and limitless compassion as saviour. And the direct consequence of this would be the rebuilding of his special community, called Zion.

 

 

It would be a beautiful place of blessing and security, verse 14. It would be the place of the truly good life, the life of security and obedience and righteousness. It will be the conditions of the Garden of Eden, lost because of sin and rebellion, and now completely restored because of the work of the servant to put things right.

 

 

And an invitation to God’s party (salvation) is offered to all (55:1-7). The picture changes to that of a banquet or party, as everyone is invited to share in the wonderful salvation and restoration just described.

 

 

And even more outrageous, this salvation party is completely free, presumably because the servant has already paid the cost of it all.

 

 

This party will not disappoint. The food will be top shelf, verse 2, and will be truly satisfying and life-giving. What exactly is that food that God will serve up at his party? Verse 7, mercy and complete pardon – restoration and peace.

 

 

And the invitation will be so attractive that just as King David became the focal point of a great nation, so too will God’s servant be a great king to whom other nations will gladly come to serve because of the blessings he offers.

The servant will be the centre of a great servant kingdom or community of saved people, on offer for anyone, verse 7, who will listen to God, turn away from rebellion and accept God’s generous invitation of salvation and a place in the new community of God’s servant.

 

 

And this incredible future is guaranteed by God’s word (55:8-13). God has been really clear. He wants to forgive and restore his people. He has taken the cost of that salvation upon his own servant so that God’s people may experience it free.

 

 

Read verses 8-13. This is God’s word to his sinful people, and it is totally effective. In the case of salvation, God intends nothing less than the total restoration of creation – a new creation where all the effects of sin will be removed and the perfect Garden Of Eden conditions are restored.

 

 

And that’s why creation will sing. The return from exile will be a wonderful act of salvation and restoration, but it will be only be a small expression of God’s ultimate intention for his people and his world.

 

 

When God’s salvation is complete, there will be a new creation, where all evidence of sin has been removed. It will be one massive community of servants gathered around The Servant. It will be called Zion, God’s city, but far bigger than, and removed from, anything the physical city of Jerusalem could ever be.

 

 

An urgent challenge:- Join God’s satisfying party or run their own (56:1-59:21)

 

 

God has made clear the extent of his kindness, compassion and generosity in salvation. God has fulfilled his promises in the most outrageously radical way.

 

 

But God’s people also have a responsibility to respond properly to his generosity by choosing to identify with God and his purpose and his servant.

 

 

Those who are welcome at God’s party will reflect God’s concerns (56:1-8). God’s people had to learn that it was attitude and not nationality that was important.

 

 

What is important if God’s future is embraced is not thinking that they were special to God and better than others because they are Israelites, or have Jerusalem or the temple, but reflecting God’s character of truth and justice, verse 1.

 

 

What is important if God’s future is embraced is recognising their need of God’s grace and welcoming God’s generosity to the most despised and rejected of this world – foreigners and eunuchs who see their need of God’s compassion and kindness, verses 2-8.

 

 

God’s people needed to realise that God’s concerns in salvation was much greater than bringing Israelites back from Babylon. God would welcome any at his party who recognised their need of God’s salvation and grace and who wanted to be there. And God intended to gather such people from every class of society from across the whole world.

 

 

And sadly, many of God’s people will continue their own party (56:9-57:13). As Isaiah looks into the future, and into the period after exile, he sees that many of God’s people have not changed. Sin will continue to ravage them.

 

 

56:9-12 The leaders fail miserably to protect and shepherd God’s people. Verse 12, they have their own party going which is such a contrast to God’s party. Their food of preference is self interest and pleasure.

 

 

57:1-13 This has a flow on effect for all God’s people in their own depraved party:- thinking that they can rid themselves of God by killing those who want to serve him; preferring witchcraft to the word of God; choosing the sex driven life of Canaanite fertility gods, even when that life shows itself to be totally unsatisfying.

 

 

And once again, God’s people will experience the inevitable outcome of their choices. Verse 12, and verses 20-21 those who turn their back on God and run their own party will be judged and will miss out on the peace they long for.

 

 

But, verse 13, those who look to the Lord and desire to join his party and live as his servants will get it all. These will be very much aware of their sin and failure in light of God’s holiness. Verse 18-19, they are distraught over their sin and know their need of radical healing.

 

 

In other words they really do want to be part of God’s party and experience the salvation and change that only the Lord can work in them. And to them, God will be full of compassion and kindness and grace.

 

 

But God has not finished with his people yet (58:1-59:21). God’s generosity and kindness and compassion continue to dominate as he pleads with his people to give up on shallow religious actions such as prayer, sacrifice and Sabbath keeping, and cultivate the attitudes that will reflect his character.

 

 

And amazingly, after all the provocation from God’s sinful people, the Lord still holds out wonderful tings if only they will join his party and forsake their sin and pursue truth and obedience.

 

 

Look at 58:8-14. What a wonderful carrot the Lord holds out to his people. If only they will do what is right. If only they will cultivate proper attitude of obedience and service, then life will be completely reversed for them.

But that only highlights their dilemma. Look at 59:1 Once again the Lord makes clear to his sinful people that the problem is not his, but theirs. In other words, they do not do the right thing by God because they cannot do the right thing.

 

 

Verses 1-15 are a sad picture of people powerless to change; powerless to display the attitudes and actions that will please the Lord. Look at verses 12-15 for a summary.

 

 

So, do we sink into hopelessness? Never, we simply come full circle and remember that the Lord is already doing something special for those trapped in sin and rebellion.

 

 

Look at verse 15. God himself will come and will come to his people and save them. What an incredible commitment from the Lord. Throughout Isaiah’s prophecy God has called his people to return to him. Here he tells his people that he will come to them because that is the only way they will be saved.

 

 

He will come to them in the person and work of the servant who will change them from the inside out. He will treat them contrary to what they deserve.

 

 

He will achieve his covenant purpose to have a kingdom or community of people who will honour him and serve him gladly and perfectly. His party will be the only one running when it is all done.

 

 

The look-alike party preferred by the wicked will be destroyed with them, but those who genuinely long for the renewal and salvation that the Lord offers will get just that.

 

 

And here is a real challenge for everyone here this morning.

 

 

We must see God’s character as it truly is and not allow ungodly people to caricature him. The God of the Old Testament only resorts to anger and judgment when provoked severely. In reality the Lord wants to offer forgiveness and restoration to all who recognise their need of it and who are aware of their sinful failings.

 

 

The Lord is kind and compassionate and merciful and loves to offer pardon to those who deserve condemnation, and those who are rejected and despised by society.

 

 

The Lord constantly offers sinful people good things and pleads with them to see just how good life can be under his rule.

 

 

The Lord promised to cover the cost of salvation so that sinful people might experience it for free and invites all and sundry to his party regardless of where you now are or have been.

 

 

Friends, as he promised, the Lord has come to us in the person of Jesus. He has come into the world to secure the peace and salvation long promised. He comes to you with kindness and compassion and power to secure your forgiveness and renew your relationship with God forever, and all at no cost to you.

 

 

But you must want to be part of God’s party. A fresh start and complete turn around is on offer to you, but you need to recognise your need and determine to find the good life you are seeking in service of Jesus.

 

 

And friends, surely if we appreciate anything of who we are in Christ and what he has done in securing our salvation then we too will be unstoppable as we celebrate Christ and salvation and as we seek to live faithfully into the future.

  

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

    

 

 

 

 

 

 

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