Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Oct 16 2019 - Isaiah 49 – God's Servant

As we noticed just over a week ago, there are four Servant songs in these chapters of Isaiah (42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9 and 52:13-53:12). So, in verses 1-6 of this chapter the Servant of the Lord is speaking and is summoning all the world to listen to him. He was chosen and prepared for God's service even before he was born (v. 1). He is one in whom God had determined to display his glory (v. 3). But who is this servant?

Initially it seems that the servant is the whole nation of Israel (v. 3). God had chosen this people to be the means through which he would bring his blessing and his salvation to all the peoples of the earth (see Genesis 12:3). He had called them to be a priestly people, acting as mediators between the living God and the nations (Exodus 19:5-6). But Israel would only be able carry out this task if they were obedient to the living God, and this is where they had failed. They had been disobedient to the Lord and instead of bringing the salvation of God to the nations of the world, they had been defeated by the nations.

So the Lord is now raising up an individual who will act as his Servant. His mission is to turn the people of Israel back to their God, but it is far wider than that:

It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob
    and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
    that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth. (v. 6)

Where Israel has failed, the Lord's Servant will succeed. He will be the means by which the salvation of God will come "to the Jew first and also to the nations." The Servant will be despised by the powers of this world, but in the end, kings and princes will bow down to him (v. 7), recognising him as King of kings.

The Lord will use his Servant to bring his people out of the nations where they have been scattered into the inheritance he promised to them. He will lead them home and care for them like a shepherd tending his flock (vv. 9-10). The whole of creation is called to join in with songs of praise as God now acts to comfort his people and have compassion on his afflicted ones (v. 13, cf. 40:1).

But so many of those to whom Isaiah was called to minister remained unconvinced concerning God's promise of salvation. Their experience of exile had led them to believe that the Lord had forgotten them (v. 13). This leads to some wonderfully tender words of reassurance:

Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget, I will not forget you!
See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands. (vv. 15-16)

God's saving acts will bring the whole world to know that, "I, the Lord, am your Saviour, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob" (v. 26).

This is what God has done through his Suffering Servant, the Lord Jesus Christ (of whom we shall read more in chapter 53). Jesus took upon himself the task of Israel. Where they, like Adam, failed through disobedience, he has succeeded. He has brought salvation not only to Israel but to all the nations of the earth. He is the evidence of God's tender care for all that he has made. He is the one who, like a shepherd with his flock, leads us safely into the inheritance which God has promised his people. All creation shall rejoice in his salvation.

Father God, we thank you for Jesus, the Servant King and rejoice in his salvation. Equip us by your Spirit to be his disciples, joining him in the task of bringing your salvation to all peoples on earth.

Oct 16 2013 - 1 Timothy 1:1-20 – Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners

Saul the Pharisee had spent his life devoted to exact and exacting law keeping. He looked for God to come and save his people Israel; he looked for God to come and rescue them from the hand of foreign occupation and for him to re-establish his kingly reign in Israel. The Pharisees reasoned that if the kingdom had been lost through disobedience, surely, if Israel would only be obedient to God's covenant demands he would return to save and bless them. A later tradition asserted that if every Israelite would only keep the Sabbath perfectly on one Sabbath, then the Messiah would come.

But Saul's encounter with the risen Lord Jesus on the Damascus road changed everything – including his name. Paul now knew that Jesus, the man crucified at the hands of the Romans, had been owned by God to be the Christ, for God had raised him from the dead – he is the Lord Jesus Christ. And he knew that, far from his law keeping making him obedient to God, he had been the greatest of sinners for he had opposed the work of God, blasphemed the name of God's Christ and had persecuted the people of God. His whole world had been turned upside down.

But he had also discovered another revolutionary truth. "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15). Through his encounter with the risen Christ, Paul discovered through personal experience the truth which Jesus had spoken to Pharisees during his earthly ministry, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:31-32).

For Paul, this discovery was more than personal experience; it was a call to mission. If God could save him, the worst of sinners, he can save anyone. Paul was commissioned by the risen Christ to preach this good news to all who would listen. And along with his message, he stands as living proof of the grace of God; a demonstration of the power of God to save (1:16).

The world is full of slick salesmen trying to sell the latest gizmo. Words can be cheap, and claims often prove empty. But there is no denying the testimony of a transformed life; it is powerful and incontrovertible (remember Acts 4:16).

And so Paul travelled around the Mediterranean world with this message: God is now establishing his kingdom in the world through Jesus the Christ, God’s anointed king. And not only did he preach this message, he devoted time to training up others to help with the work of making Christ known. Timothy is one such helper whom Paul had trained. He has been left to minister to the church at Ephesus and Paul instructs him to encourage the church to focus upon Christ and the wonderful salvation that is found in him rather than being distracted through endless foolish controversies.

Paul’s concern for the churches, for the work of the gospel and for the glory of Christ is summed up in the benediction of 1:17: "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen"

Yes Lord, we add our “Amen” to that of the apostle Paul. We thank you that your salvation has touched our lives and that you have brought us out of darkness into the kingdom of your dear Son. We want all the world to know that Jesus Christ is Lord and to enjoy the freedom of living under his reign of grace. Help us to declare his praises not only as we speak about him but also through the power of lives transformed by your Spirit and lived to the glory of your name.

Peter Misselbrook