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Sermon Date

September 9, 2018

Bible Passage

Isaiah 42:13-43:7

Author

The Grand Mission of God

What is our purpose in life? Why do we exist? What is the purpose of the church? Our passage today provides answers to these questions.

God ‘s People Exist for His Glory

The primary reason we exist is for the glory of God. The purpose of the children of God individually and collectively is that we are to glorify God.

In looking at the history of the Israelites, we see that every major event in the history of Israel takes place by the providence and sovereignty of God so that He will be glorified. The calling of Abraham and the establishment of Israel is for the glory of God (Is. 49:3). God delivers the Israelites from captivity in Egypt and saves them for His glory (Ex. 14:4, 18). God makes a covenant with His people with the Mosaic Law so that His people will be set apart and worship Him. It is through the Covenant that God is glorified because it reveals the nature of God’s perfect holiness, His judgment of sin, and His forgiveness through faith in the temple sacrifices (Ex. 20:3-5).

As God’s people travel through the wilderness, even though they are rebellious and stiff-necked, God preserves them and keeps them as His people for His glory (Ez. 20:21-22). When they enter the Promised Land, God gives victory in their conquests over the pagan nations so that all the nations will know that He alone is God and worthy of worship (Jos. 24:12-14). And, God establishes kings to rule over the nation of Israel so that He is glorified (1 Sam 12:19-23).

We can continue talking about how every act of redemption in Scripture, including the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ, God does for His glory.

Today’s passage has good news and bad news. We need to see the bad news in the context of the good news. The good news serves as a backdrop and provides context for the bad news. So, before getting into chapter 42, let’s skip to the last section of our passage and look at a few verses in chapter 43.

God Loves His people

Existing for the glory of God is not a mundane, cold, heartless existence. It is the very opposite. All who exist for God’s glory are deeply loved by God and are the object of His affection.

Isaiah 43:1-4 tells of God’s love for His people. He is our Creator who redeems us from destruction. He calls us by name and calls us His possession. God says, “you are Mine!” He promises that we will always be in His presence. He protects us from harm. He is our Savior who rescues us because we are unable to save ourselves. He tells us that we are precious in His sight. He is willing to pay a great price for us, even sacrificing other people on our behalf (such as the pagan nations during the conquest of the Promised Land). Throughout the Scripture, we read that God loves us with an everlasting love.

As we think about how God demonstrates His love, we cannot help but think about how He gives His Beloved Son to die on the cross and bear the full punishment for our sin. There is no greater demonstration of love than to die for unworthy sinners. Without question, God loves His people.

When God’s people fail as servants of His glory, God will discipline His people.

God is adamant about His glory. Everything He does is for His glory. Therefore, when the people of Israel fail to live according to the purpose for which God saves them, and they fail to live for His glory, God disciplines the Israelites.

It is very important for us to realize that God’s discipline comes from His love. We see this truth in Proverbs.

My son, do not reject the discipline of the LORD or loathe His reproof, for whom the LORD loves He reproves, even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights. (Proverbs 3:11-12)

The writer of Hebrews quotes this verse when he speaks of God disciplining those He loves (Hebrews 12:6).

God’s purpose in disciplining the Israelites is that they will go from being disobedient to being obedient. His goal is the unrighteous become righteous. The writer of Hebrews explains this when He says:

All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. (Hebrews 12:11)

To live righteously is to live for the glory of God. Righteousness is fulfilling God’s purpose and plans. God calls His people to be His image bearers. God works in His people to conform them to the glorious image of Christ. Scripture tells us that we are changing from one degree of glory to another.

As Jesus says, we are the salt of the earth. We are saved to spread the flavor of God’s goodness. We are the light of the world which means we are to bring light into dark places. Our purpose is to reveal to the world through our words and our actions that God is good and glorious. The message of all God’s people throughout all of history is that there is one God and He is full of grace, mercy, love, truth, and forgiveness. In being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we reveal to the world the glory of God.

Israel as a nation fails to glorify God.

After King Solomon, the Israelites fail to be the light of the world. Instead of worshipping God, they fall into pride, idolatry, and all kinds of wickedness. We have seen this in the earlier chapters of Isaiah.

Here is where God’s discipline becomes a factor. This is the bad news that we need to view in light of the good news of God’s love.

Because of their wickedness, God brings discipline to Israel. The discipline first comes from Syria and the northern kingdom. The greatest discipline from God takes place when God allows the Babylonian captivity.

Chapter 42 is meant to be read after the discipline takes place. It is the situation of Israel during the Babylonian captivity. God asks His people, why are you in this situation? He asks, “Who gave Jacob up for spoil, and Israel to plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, and in whose ways they were not willing to walk, and whose law they did not obey?”

In other words, why did the plundering of Israel take place? Who brought this about? What is the reason it took place? Isaiah gives a rhetorical question, “Was it not the Lord?” Is it perhaps because you didn’t walk in His ways, or because you didn’t obey His laws?

The answer is that it is the Lord who brings their situation. And, they know it is the Lord because they only need to read the beginning of the Isaiah scroll prophecy.

Isaiah’s Commission is the Announcement of the Discipline

When they are living in Israel, before the Babylonian captivity, God commissions a prophet named Isaiah to warn them of their discipline. Isaiah’s commission is in Isaiah 6:8-13.

The reason for looking at Isaiah’s commission is that we may read how God tells Isaiah how He will discipline the people of Israel. In chapter 42, Isaiah again repeats the words he heard from the Lord. Chapter 42 talks about their condition after the Babylonian captivity. Chapter 6 comes true in chapter 42. In chapter 6, God is telling what will happen. In chapter 42, God is telling what has happened.

At the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry, the Lord tells Isaiah to go to a people who listen but don’t perceive and who look, but they don’t understand. In other words, the people are blind and deaf.

Isaiah repeats this accusation in chapter 42. He writes,

18 Hear, you deaf! And look, you blind, that you may see. 19 Who is blind but My servant, or so deaf as My messenger whom I send? Who is so blind as he that is at peace with Me, or so blind as the servant of the Lord?

Isaiah then speaks of how God’s people, as they are in Babylon, are without hope as they are captive and scattered. He has removed them far away.

22 But this is a people plundered and despoiled; all of them are trapped in caves, or are hidden away in prisons; they have become a prey with none to deliver them, and a spoil, with none to say, “Give them back!” (Isaiah 42:22)

Their current condition is no surprise. God is the one who brings the discipline and puts them in their current condition.

Isaiah then speaks of how God’s prophecy to Jerusalem with the holy fire of His anger comes true. He writes: “So He poured out on him the heat of His anger and the fierceness of battle, and it set him aflame all around, yet he did not recognize it; and it burned him, but he paid no attention.”

Because of Israel’s blindness and deafness to the things of God, they didn’t even know what was happening around them. God set a flame around them, but they did not recognize it was God behind it all. They paid no attention to the things of God.

The reason it is important to compare chapter 6 with chapter 42 is that we may see the sovereignty of God at work to accomplish His purpose. The God who measures the universe with a span and the mountains on a scale is the God who brings loving discipline to Israel by allowing them to become captive in Babylon.

God gives Israel His law (a covenant of blessing), but they scorn His law and His glory. So, God brings upon them the anger of His discipline the likes of which they never experienced before.

Again, we must remember that God does this because He loves His people. He desires for Israel to glorify His name. He wants His people to fulfill the covenant of glorifying Him by being His servants. They were to serve God by blessing to the nations and to be a witness of His glory.

The Lord Delivers His People

Now that God fulfills His discipline, the time is come to bring them back from captivity. Isaiah writes in chapter 42 of how God will go forth like a warrior.

God disciplines Israel for His glory. And, His deliverance of Israel will be just as glorious. He arouses His zeal like a man of war. God will prevail against His enemies. The enemies are not His people, but those who take His people captive. God speaks of how He kept silent for a long time and restrained Himself. Now, it is the end of His period of restraint. He will lay waste the mountains and hills and wither all the vegetation. He will make the rivers and ponds like dry land.

In His holy zeal, God will lead His blind people and guide them home. He will make darkness into light and make the rugged terrain easy to pass so His children may return to the Jerusalem.

The time of the shaming of His people comes to an end. Now, God will pour out His wrath on the people of Babylon who trust in idols. The table will turn, and the Babylonian who worship false gods will be put to shame.

God Loves His People

The passage we briefly looked at, Isaiah 43:1-4, now comes into clear focus. Yes, God sent a great discipline upon His people. He allows them to be taken captive and scattered among the other nations. Now, God will lead them home.

Again, God speaks and tells His people not to have fear for it is God who redeems them. He will be with them and keep them secure from dangerous waters. They will pass through fire, and they will not be burned. (Perhaps this passage gives Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego boldness to step into the fiery furnace). 

God tells His people that they are precious in His sight and that He loves them. God will speak to the east, west, north, and south and say, “Give them up. Do not hold them back. Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth.

Pay special attention to verse 7; God is calling back everyone who is called by His name, and whom He creates for His glory. God returns His people to Jerusalem where they will fulfill their calling of being His servant and bringing Him glory.

Created for God’s glory

What we learn is God establishes the nation of Israel to bring Him glory. When God’s people fail to bring Him glory, God prophecies to them of His coming discipline. He desires to sanctify them to get them back on track. God’s work is drastic. He does not tolerate disobedient servants.

At the end of his ministry, in chapters 40-66, Isaiah prophecies the end of the discipline. He tells how God uses the discipline as an opportunity to glorify His name. He proves He is God by prophesying beforehand all that will take place.

When everything is said and done, there is no question that God is behind it all. God raises up Babylon, and God sets Babylon down. He is sovereignly vindicating His glory at all cost.

Bridge to Today

How do we apply this to our lives today? Some principles do not apply. For example, we do not apply the principle that our nation is called to serve God in the same way as Israel. Israel is a unique nation on the earth. God makes a covenant with Israel, and He does not make a covenant with any other nation.

God’s Loving Relationship with His People

What we do have in common with the people of Israel is our relationship with God. The way God relates to Israel as His children is the same as the way He relates to us. They are precious in His sight, and so are we.

There are many words and phrases God uses to describe the loving relationship with the people of Israel He uses to describe His loving relationship with us.

God says of the people of Israel that He is their Redeemer. He promises He will not leave them. He speaks to them as being their Savior. The people of Israel are God’s sons and daughters. They are called by His name. And, the Old Testament says that they are created for His glory.

Every one of these phrases are found in the New Covenant of Christ. We share in the same loving relationship. Most important, both Old and New Testament Christians are saved by faith alone through grace alone.

In short, God loves the people of Israel, and we have perfect and sufficient evidence that God loves us in the same way He loves His chosen people of Israel.

The people of Israel during the time of Isaiah were engaged in terrible sins. They did not take care of the widows and orphans. They dealt corruptly in business. And, they committed idolatry. It’s fair to say that our sins are not as severe as the people of Israel. They were blatantly disobeying Him and following idols.

At the same time, to sit here and say we are innocent of all pride or innocent of all idolatry will be foolish. We are wise to examine ourselves and ask, in areas of my life, am I blind to the things of God? Do I obey God as I should? Am I complacent to God’s purpose for my life or am I chasing the American dream?

God’s Expectations for His people

We share the same relationship with God as the Israelites, and we share the same purpose and calling. God saves us and has expectations for His people.

The reason God saves us is the same reason God saves the people of Israel. We are saved to bring God glory. We are in a covenant relationship with God and with one another. We are called to be set apart from the world as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. The New Testament frequently refers to us as God’s servants. We serve God by being a blessing to the nations. We are called to spread the truth of God's grace and God's glory to the ends of the earth.

We serve God as His witness by declaring that He alone is God and Savior. We are to tell people that there are no other gods. And, we are to declare that there is salvation through God the Son.

We are servants, and God gives us work to accomplish. The purpose of our being saved is that we will be a blessing to the nations by bringing the gospel of Jesus as well as the fruit of the gospel, which is love.

Wherever churches are planted, we see how God’s people bring the truth of the gospel as well as the love of the gospel. God’s people care for orphans and widows, feed the poor, and help establish hospitals. Churches are to be the center of racial reconciliation. Christians are to be the example of honesty and integrity in the marketplace. Our homes and marriages are to be an example of the gospel in action. Christians are a blessing to the nations by loving others. And most importantly, Christians are a blessing to the nations through the message of the gospel. There ought not to be one without the other. 

The way we may apply this message is to look at our lives and serve God as His witness by declaring that He alone is God and Savior.

When we stray …

There is another principle we are to keep in mind, and that is the principle that God will discipline those that He loves. We live in the world, but we are not to be of the world. Paul says, “by the mercies of God, present yourselves as a living sacrifice. Do not be conformed to this world and doing this is our reasonable act of service” (Romans 12:1-2).

We are not to be of the world by being disobedient to God. We are to be holy and set apart and messengers of His glory and grace.

What happens though, is that we stray. We rebel or become complacent. Instead of serving God’s purpose and plan, we serve our purpose and plan. We become blind and deaf to the ways of God. We all have our blind spots. Not one of us is living in perfect obedience. God shows us much grace, but when we get too far out of line, God will discipline us. When we become indistinguishable from the world, and we no longer are living as witnesses (in both word and conduct) of God’s glory and of God’s grace, we find ourselves in a dangerous place.

We need to remember; we are His servants. He is our Lord. We are to obey His commands. God’s command is clear. We are to live for His glory.

David Platt tells a story of a seminar he attended in college. He describes his experience like this:

… the leader, Jeff Lewis, opened the Bible to the book of Genesis. For the next 45 minutes, he walked from cover to cover through Scripture, showing God's passion for His glory in all nations. All the way to Revelation, he painted an overwhelmingly God-centered view of God. When the session was over, the other students got up to leave. But I couldn't move. I was glued to my seat with the Bible in front of me and my jaw on the ground.      

For the first time, I realized that my life was created for the spread of God's grace and God's glory to the ends of the earth. This grand mission of God was not a mere program in the church. This grand mission of God was the purpose for which I had breath. – David Platt

How is God going to view our life? God measures our life by how we glorify Him. Our primary purpose in life is not our family. We are not created by God to get educational degrees for the sake of being smarter than other people. We are not created by God to be known for our career. God didn’t save us so we become great golfers or to have lots of friends on Facebook. We don’t go to a church to enhance our personal kingdoms. Our purpose in life is to spread God’s grace and God’s glory to the ends of the earth.  We are His servants created for His glory.

The chief end of man is to glory God and enjoy Him forever.

Let’s be wise and examine our lives to see if we are living according to the purpose God has for our lives.