Forgiveness and comfort only in Christ (Isaiah 50:1-10)

Isaiah 50:1-10
Thus saith the Lord, “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, And for your transgressions is your mother put away. Wherefore, when I came, why was there no man? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: Their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.” The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, And I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, And my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting. For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: Therefore have I set my face like a flint, And I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; Who will contend with me? Let us stand together: Who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; The moth shall eat them up. Who is among you that feareth the Lord, That obeyeth the voice of the Lord, That walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, And stay upon his God.

Amen thus far we read the Word of God, may He bless his people by the preaching of it. Our theme this morning/evening is: “Forgiveness and comfort only in Christ

These verses that we just read are a part of a bigger context and I will give it to you quickly. Chapters 49-55 in the book of Isaiah focus on the Suffering Servant, who will be glorified, namely Jesus Christ. In chapter 49 we read: “And now, saith the lord that formed me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, Yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, And my God shall be my strength. And he said, “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, And to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, That thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” (Is. 49:5-6). Here it is prophesied, that the church of God (which would be raised up by Christ) would not be made up of ethnic Israelites only but of all tribes and tongues and nations (Rev. 5:9). Those who were once far off would become nigh by the blood of Christ. The middle wall of partition would be torn off and what was already prophesied in Isaiah chapter 19 would come to pass: “In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, Even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, And Assyria the work of my hands, And Israel mine inheritance.” (Is. 19:24-25).

Now when we come to chapter 50, we must understand the situation of Judah. They were oppressed by other nations and had went through many judgements, but more punishments kept coming. The famous Babylonian exile would also be a reality in a near future. This all was because of their wicked hearts and stubbornness to trust in man instead of God. See first then in the first three verses the just judgement of the wicked and the uselessness of excuses.

Verse 1
“Thus saith the Lord, “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away? Or which of my creditors is it to whom I have sold you? Behold, for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, and for your transgressions is your mother put away.” Judah was angry with God. Because of all the calamities they concluded that God had rejected and divorced them, and the “cause of the divorce came to be the subject of inquiry[1]. They said: “The Lord has done wickedly in divorcing us!” They even laid the blame on their ancestors, as if they were punished for the sins of others. It is to these complaints that Ezekiel refers to: “Our fathers ate a sour grape, and our teeth are set on edge.” (Ezekiel 18:2). But what is the truth? Has God broken his promises? Is God to be blamed?

God asks them: “Where is the bill of your mother’s divorcement, whom I have put away?” referring to Deuteronomy 24 where we read: “When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favor in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house.” (Deut. 24:1). God is asking Judah to present this bill so that they could see who’s fault this was. Were their calamities the result of God’s unfaithfulness or their own? Well, we do understand without any moment of doubt that God was not the one breaking the covenant: “But Zion said, “The Lord hath forsaken me, And my Lord hath forgotten me.” Can a woman forget her sucking child, That she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, Yet will I now forget thee. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; Thy walls are continually before me.” (Is. 49:14-16). God had not broken the covenant promises and to accuse Him of unfaithfulness is a grave sin, for the Bible tells us that God hates unjust divorce: “The Lord the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away.” (Mal. 2:16)

We do understand however that in a temporary sense Judah had been put away. Calvin comments: “If it be asked, “Did the Lord divorce his heritage? Did he make void the covenant?” Certainly not; but the Lord is said to “divorce,” as he is elsewhere said to profane, his heritage, (Psalm 89:39; Ezekiel 24:21,) because no other conclusion can be drawn from present appearances; for, when he did not bestow upon them his wonted favor, it was a kind of divorce or rejection. In a word, we ought to attend to these two contrasts, that the wife is divorced, either by the husband’s fault, or because she is unchaste and adulterous; and likewise that children are sold, either for their father’s poverty or by their own fault. And thus the course of argument in this passage will be manifest.”

Who could blame God of punishing unjustly? The people of Judah thought that they could, and so in their pride they put the blame of their suffering on God’s account. But the blame was upon them. God had no creditors who had the authority or the power to take anything away from the Lord. It was their sins that put them away and that had to be punished: “for your iniquities have ye sold yourselves, And for your transgressions is your mother put away.” Their own sins were shouting for their judgement.

“Mother” refers to Jews, “who stood in the same relation to the Jewish church, or synagogue, as children to a mother.” – John Gill

Verses 2-3
“Wherefore, when I came, why was there no man? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is my hand shortened at all, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, at my rebuke I dry up the sea, I make the rivers a wilderness: Their fish stinketh, because there is no water, and dieth for thirst. I clothe the heavens with blackness, and I make sackcloth their covering.” God is asking them: “When I sent my prophets to preach repentance, why did you not hear them?” God is not asking them this because he doesn’t know the answer, he knows but he asks this in order to show how plain it is that the fault is in the people. God is not ignorant of the state of man. The reason why they didn’t trust in Him was because they were dead in sins, slaves to sin and in war with God. They were not regenerate, they didn’t have a heart that would love God and trust in him! “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” (Rom. 8:7-8). This is why Jesus said you have to be born again of the Spirit, because there was something seriously wrong in your first birth, namely: that which is born of flesh is only flesh! Jesus said: “No man can come to me, expect it were given to unto him of my Father.” (Joh. 6:65).

Why do people resist the gospel today? Why don’t they believe the good news? Not because God’s hand is shortened so that it cannot redeem. Not because he has no power to deliver but because of their own wickedness and God is not obligated to give his grace to everyone since they don’t even want it. They think they are okay and so when a calamity hits them, and they lose their loved one or something else happens they shout in anger: “There is no God! God is helpless! This is God’s fault he is not loving!” Why? Because they are blind and don’t accept the fact that they deserve suffering from God.

How gracious and longsuffering the Lord is! Humble yourselves and know that if we say we have no sin, we make God a liar and the truth is not in us. On the judgement day there is no room for excuses.

So we have now seen the just judgement of the wicked and the uselessness of excuses.

Let us now see then that Christ the suffering and glorified servant is the only hope of a sinner in verses 4-9.

Verse 4-5
“The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, That I should know how to speak a Word in season to him that is weary: He wakeneth morning by morning, He wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned. The Lord God hath opened mine ear, And I was not rebellious, neither turned away back. I gave my back to the smiters, And my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.” Christ is speaking here of what He is going to do on earth. It its important for us to understand that the Son of God became a man. Jesus is truly God and truly man in one person. In his humanity he is said to “learn obedience” and to have received a tongue of the learned etc. God the Father through the Spirit equipped Christ with everything necessary for the work of redemption in his humanity. So when we read that God gives something to Christ, we are not to think they are unequal, but that Christ humbled himself and took a form of a slave and willingly “learned” things on earth.

First it is said, that Jesus was given the tongue of the learned, that he should know how to speak a Word in season to him that is weary. What does this mean? Isaiah 61:1-3 sheds light on this: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; Because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day on vengeance of our God; To comfort all that mourn; To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion; To give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they might be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, That he might be glorified.” In Luke 4:16-21 Christ says of these verses: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”

It was only Christ who declared to people: “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth…” (Matt. 5:3-5). Only he could say: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-29). He preached the gospel, commanding people to repent and to trust in Him. He had the tongue of the learned. He spoke the Word in season to them that were weary.

Secondly it is said: “The Lord God hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.” This describes Christ’s obedience unto death. All of us have rebelled against God’s Word. We don’t love him with all our heart, soul and mind. We are sinners. But Christ never disobeyed God. He always loved the Father with everything. If we would have right understanding of the Gospel, we have to understand that Christ did not only die for us, He lived for us: “but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:4). When we trust in Him, we have his righteousness imputed to us (Rom. 1:17). Christ was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:8). Christ was obedient in life and death. He prayed: “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.” (Matt. 26:42). He gave his back to the smiters and he did not hide his face from shame and spitting. He endured the pain. He suffered the wrath of God for all who put their faith in him. On the cross he said: “It is finished.” (John 19:30). He was the suffering servant. In verses 7-9 we see the glorified servant.

Verses 7-9
“For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: Therefore have I set my face like a flint, And I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; Who will contend with me? Let us stand together: Who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; The moth shall eat them up.” Jesus’s ministry would not end in shame! The passionate words here say: “He is near that justifieth me” What does this mean? It means that ALL that Christ said He was would be proven true by the Father! His truthfulness was proven by the resurrection as we read in Romans 1 that He was: “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Rom. 1:4). He is the Son of God. He is the way, the truth and the life and no man cometh unto the Father except through him! There is a heaven. There is a hell. Salvation happens the way He says it will happen and no other way around. Sin is what Christ said it is. What is right is what he said is right. All his Words are certain! Therefore we read Christ triumphantly asking: “Who is he that shall condemn me? Lo, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up.” Christ will never be judged guilty again. Christ is no longer the one being accused and judged by men. HE is the judge. Now he will accuse and no matter what you believe you also will stand before him one day and all your sins will be judged, and you will receive your punishment. Your only hope is to turn from your love of sin and ask for mercy. You have to abandon all self-righteousness and hopes of being saved and accepted in any other way than through Christ. Your parents can’t save you. Your baptism can’t save you. Going to church doesn’t save you. Your morality can’t save you only Christ can save you. And if he saves you, he will only save by grace through faith in him alone. Be warned all of you who still deny him: “The day of the Lord cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, “Peace and safety;” then sudden destruction cometh upon them as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” (1 Thess. 5:2-3).

If He will not come as your Savior, He will come as your enemy and you will not prevail. Kneeling in surrender today is your only hope.

Now let us see finally the comfort that Christ gives to his people.

Verse 10
“Who is among you that feareth the Lord, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, That walketh in darkness and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord, And stay upon his God.” This is God’s comfort to those of the flock of God, who walk in darkness without light. We know they are his people for they are said to fear God, meaning that they have that fear which children have for their father a fear of offending the one he loves, not because he’s afraid of torture or even of punishment, but rather because he’s afraid of displeasing the one who is, in that child’s world, the source of security and love. They are also said to obey Christ, meaning that they have trusted in him as their Lord and Savior. “My sheep hear my voice, and they follow me: and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28). So what does it mean that they walk in darkness?

To walk in darkness refers to the believer without the assurance of salvation. Assurance of salvation means the joy and confidence you have when you had tasted and seen that the Lord is good, when you had your eyes fixed upon the cross and you knew that it was finished: your sins had been paid, the Son of God did it all, He rose again and now is before the Father praying for you! It is that assurance which comforted you in the midst of all the trials of life when you knew that God will never leave you nor forsake you.

But do all Christ’s people enjoy this blessedness of having the assurance of salvation continually? Certainly not! “True believers may in various ways have the assurance of their salvation shaken, decreased, or temporarily lost. This may happen because they neglect to preserve it or fall into some specific sin that wounds their conscience and grieves the Spirit. It may happen through some unexpected or forceful temptation or when God withdraws the light of his face and allows even those who fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light. Yet they are never completely lacking the seed of God, the life of faith, love of Christ and the brethren, sincerity of heart, or conscience concerning their duty. Out of these graces, through the work of the Spirit, this assurance may at the proper time be revived. In the meantime, they are kept from utter despair through them.” – 1689 LBCF Ch. 18 Par. 4.

When you are walking in darkness, your judgement is very much fallible. You doubt your profession, you doubt your salvation, you keep your eyes on yourself, but you don’t look to Christ. Don’t understand me wrong. We have to keep an eye on our walk with the Lord. We have to grieve over sin and repent of it every day. But we always have to remember the gospel. We have to understand that while we are on this earth we will fall. We fall short of God’s standard every day. That’s why we needed a Savior and He paid for all sins of his people so that their salvation doesn’t depend upon them. Remember everyday that salvation is by grace. Your salvation is based upon what Christ did and it is not made vain by your sins. Obedience to God grows when we know that we are forgiven and made new by His grace and he won’t leave us. Lean, rely, trust and hope in Him!

Beloved, are you walking in darkness without light? The Bible says to you: “Let him trust in the name of the Lord, and stay upon his God.” Confess your sins, and know that Christ has paid it all. I read from Psalm 45 & 47: “Why art thou cast down, o my soul? And why art thou disquieted in me? Hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance… Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me, hope thou in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.” (Ps. 45:5, 11); “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: And he delighted in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down: For the Lord upholdeth him with his hand. I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, Nor his seed begging bread.” (Ps. 37:23-25).

The salvation of God’s people is certain. The Father chose them, The Son lived and died for them, The Spirit is given to them. We read in Romans 8:28: “And we KNOW that ALL THING work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” If something in the life of the regenerate makes God abandon them for eternity, then all things would not work together for good. Christ would not have done it all. But ALL things do work for their good! Those who are not God’s people, everything will work for their destruction but if you are God’s people, you are His forever.

Amen.

[1] Calvin’s comment

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