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 2020 - Hebrews 10:1-18 – Jesus has sat down at God’s right hand

The writer of Hebrews paints a strong contrast between Jesus and the priests of the Old Covenant. The latter were always busy; "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins" (Hebrews 10:11). They were always on their feet, always on the go, their work was never finished. The constant ceremonies were not only a reminder to the people of their sinfulness (10:3), they also reminded them that God continued to remember their sins.

What a wonderful contrast when it comes to Jesus; "when [he] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins ... he sat down at the right hand of God" (10:12). Jesus has sat down; his atoning work is finished. God remembers our sin no more (10:17 / Jeremiah 31:34).

The gospel transforms ‘remembrance’ from being a remembrance of guilt to a remembrance of grace. This is the meaning of our continual remembrance of Christ’s sacrifice when we break bread and drink wine together. Christ is not offered again but we are reminded again of the fullness and perfection of his saving work. We celebrate his death.

Just as Jesus rests from his saving work, so also we can rest in his saving work. We do not need to be occupied with frantic activity in the hope of being acceptable to God, "For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy" (10:14). What a wonderful paradox; we have been made perfect yet are still being made holy. We are perfectly acceptable to God; there is nothing more that we need to do to commend ourselves to him. Nevertheless, there is plenty more that he will do in us to make us like his Son (10:16); we are still undergoing transformation.

The other big difference between the sacrifices of the old covenant and that of Jesus is that he offered himself. The writer of this letter quotes Psalm 40, reading it as a prophecy concerning the Lord Jesus. When Christ came into the world he did not come to offer better animal sacrifices, he came to offer himself in full submission to the Father’s will. This entailed him being offered as the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

There is nothing left to be done but to trust in him and in all that he has done for us. But there is also much to be done in following him and developing the same spirit that marked his life "Here I am ... I have come to do your will, my God" (Hebrews 10:7). There is much to be done in serving him and making him known.

This letter was written to show these faltering Jewish Christians that there could be no turning back to the ceremonies which had been central to their lives before they learnt of Christ. They cannot turn back for there is no longer anything to turn back to. Jesus has done away with all that is past and has opened up a way forward into the future. They need to press on in following him.

So also do we. There is no alternative. Nor could we wish for any other way.

Father we thank you that Jesus makes all the difference. He is not just another teacher sent from heaven: he is your final word and your final act in our salvation; he is your final judgment. Help us to remember with joy all that he has done for us that we might press on in following him, fully assured of sin forgiven and with a sure and certain hope of glory. Empower us to tell the world the good news that in Christ judgment is past and that you welcome all to live with you.

Peter Misselbrook