The Perfection of the Servant's Purpose

Steve Viars November 28, 2009 Isaiah 41:1-13

 

- Would you agree with me this morning that it is a wonderful thing to find something that is real, genuine, authentic, long-lasting…

- as opposed to something that easily breaks, or fails, or disappoints?...

- the Viars family is living under the household appliance curse…

- it’s amazing how many microwaves we’ve purchased…it feels like about one per week [that’s probably an exaggeration]…but we’ve had to buy several since we’ve lived here for sure…

- and refrigerators and stoves and toasters and washing machines and dryers…

- sometimes you feel like you just ought to buy two while they’re there…the new one and the replacement for when the new one breaks…

- and then you have to deal with the question – would you like to buy the warranty?...and you’re tempted to say – No, I would just like this one to reliably work for a reasonable period of time…

- but it is frustrating when you invest in something, or sacrifice for something and it doesn’t last…

 

- and when the opposite happens, it’s so unusual anymore that it catches your attention…

- we purchased a treadmill this year for our basement…and we actually asked about an extended warranty because we wanted to be sure we understood the total potential cost…and the fellow said something like – we don’t do that here…we just sell high quality products and we back up what we sell with reliable service…

- and we didn’t know if we should hug the guy, or look around to see if he had just arrived in a spaceship or what…

- it is wonderful when something is real, genuine, authentic, and long-lasting…

- and it’s frustrating when things easily break, or fail, or disappoint…

 

- of course that applies to items far more important than appliances…

- this side of heaven, we all have a rather long list of things that have broken, or failed, or disappointed…

1. You start a business and you have high hopes of being successful, making a good living, you have pictures of giving back to the community and all of that…but the plan doesn’t work and you try all sorts of solutions but then the day you dreaded comes and make a sign and get some tape, and as you lock the door for the last time and look back at the door---there it is---going out of business…

2. Or you have a relationship with another person, and the friendship starts out well and you have great times together…but then the cracks start appearing and the communication is strained… and then one day it falls apart…another broken relationship…

3. Or you try something you know is sinful but you believe it will satisfy…and at first it does…it’s like having a new puppy – sure it’s inconvenient but it’s also kind of cute and certainly controllable…

- so you just get a little drunk…or you just take a few pills…or you have casual sex…

- but it’s like that puppy – it’s created a few problems, but nothing that can be managed…

- but you wake up one day and find out that the habit’s gotten a lot bigger…

- you’re drinking more…your eyes are bloodshot because you were up half the night on the internet…you’re telling lies to your spouse and your kids to try to cover your infidelities…

- now the puppy’s a full grown dog…a big one…and it’s not really interested in being controlled anymore---in fact now it’s controlling you…

- the small experiment with the pleasures of the world has backfired…resulting in more failure, brokenness, and disappointment…

 

- now I realize you might say – Merry Christmas to you too Pastor Viars…actually, all of this is leading up to the message of Christmas…

- because this year our pastoral staff is going to be presenting a series entitled Finding Hope in God’s Servant at Christmastime…I’m very thankful for our staff and we didn’t do a joint series this summer for some other reasons so we’re going to do that during the holidays this year…

- each week we will be looking at one of the four servant songs in the book of Isaiah, beautiful passages that predicted various aspects of the Person and work of Christ…

- the subtitle for all of this is – Portraits of Perfection…The Messiah whose birth we celebrate at Christmastime was far different than the idols God’s people so often had followed, which proved to be disappointing, and easily breakable, and failing to live up to their promises…

- and because people tend to become like their idols, the result was that men and women became disappointed, and broken, and unable to keep their promises they had made to God and others…

- they needed a Christmas carol, they needed some holiday music, they needed some festive decorations to herald announcement that someday a Messiah would come would be the real thing, who would never fail, who would restore brokenness, and who would never disappoint…the Perfect Servant…

- with that in mind, please open your Bible to Isaiah 42…page 515 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you…

 

- Isaiah was a prophet of God who ministered during the reigns of 4 different kings of Judah, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah…this was between the years 739-686 BC, and if you remember your biblical chronology, that means that during Isaiah’s ministry, the northern tribes of Israel fell to the nation of Assyria…

- Isaiah was called to primarily speak to the southern tribes and even though they witnessed what happened to their brothers and sisters to the north because of their disobedience, for the most part they continued in their rebellion and idolatry and eventually met the same fate when God allowed them to be conquered by the nation of Babylon…

- if you were here a couple of weeks ago when we studied from Jeremiah 29, his ministry was later than Isaiah’s---because remember Jeremiah was serving those who had already been deported to Babylon – that’s when he told them the captivity would last for 70 years, beginning 586 BC…so they should build houses, plant vineyards, and seek the welfare of the city…

- what we studying this Christmas occurred 100 years or so earlier than that…

- so the sin and idolatry was present…it just had not yet been completely judged…

 

- in was in that setting that God led Isaiah to write 4 servant songs, recorded in Isaiah 42:1-13, Isaiah 49:1-13, Isaiah 50:4-11, Isaiah 52:13-53:12

- let’s read the first one together this am…read Isaiah 42:1-13

 

- we’re talking today about The Perfection of the Servant’s Purpose…and with the time we have remaining, let’s look for 3 appropriate responses to the promised Messiah.

 

I. Consider Christ Because of the Uniqueness of His Person – 42:1-4.

- the reason we worded it this way may not be as apparent when reading this text in some of the English versions…but something that clearly stands out in the original text is that Isaiah had just asked his readers to consider two things, not one…

- look back at verse 29 of the previous chapter for a moment – this is one of the reasons I like teaching from the NASB—it can be a bit wooden at times but it is a very literal and accurate rendition of the original text…

- read 41:29…

- here’s the point – everything we just read in this first servant song is a contrast to what Isaiah has been explaining about the idols that so many people were following…let’s back up a little further for a moment…

- read 40:19-20, 41:21-29…

- the point is – Isaiah wants them to take a hard look at the idols they are worshipping (behold them) – and then compare that to what God is planning to do by sending His own Son…

- now before we go any further, we probably need to answer this question…

  • How does this servant song apply to people like you and me today?

1. If you do not yet know Christ as Savior and Lord, consider how well your present idols are serving you.

- now, I realize that might be offensive to some…I didn’t say it to be offensive—I said it to be appropriately provocative…

- we all worship something…because God created us to be worshipping beings…

- some people worship themselves…they organize their lives around what brings them the most pleasure and the least pain…

- others worship their jobs…or they worship their houses or their cars…

- or they worship their sex, or their booze, or their pills…

- or they worship their material things or the latest gadget…

- or they worship the approval of other people…popularity…

- or they worship being in control…and being considered smart by their peers…they worship winning…

- the potential offerings at vanity fair is a long and varied list…

- you might ask – how would I know what I worship?...how would I know the identity of my functional god? (that is a really good question by the way, I hope you’re in the habit of asking it regularly…)

- one answer is – look at your checkbook…where your treasure is, there your heart will be…

- look at your schedule…think about what makes you happy, or what you believe would make your happy…

- consider what you would hate to lose…what you jealously protect…

- think about what makes you angry, or fearful, or worried when it’s not there, or when it’s threatened in some way…

- think about what you really want…what you’re going for…heading toward…

- what I’m asking you to do right now is exactly what Isaiah was doing in this text…to consider the object of your desire, the object of your worship…your functional deity…

- and if Jesus Christ, the perfect servant is not your Lord, then how well is whoever is your god performing for you right now?...

- and my guess is---that for some here today – your god is letting you down…in fact, your god makes my microwave look reliable…and that wasn’t a compliment to your god…

- and you might say – honestly, my boozing started out as a cute puppy but now it’s a mangy dog that out of control and it bites me over and over and over and it will not leave…

- or I used to think that porn on the internet thing was kind of harmless but I spent 20 hours on that habit last week and I can hardly keep my eyes open at work…

- or that affair seemed like a great idea at the time but now I’m so twisted up in my lies I can’t even remember what lies I told to whom…

- if that’s your condition this morning – we’ve got some great news…God’s got an amnesty program going on…you can exchange your false idols for His perfect Son, no questions asked…the ultimate cash for clunkers…

- and if you say – well, how long’s that program going on – from now until the time you die…the problem with that is – the latter part of that equation might occur before the end of business today…

2. If you are a Christian, consider whether any residual idolatry is hindering your love for the Savior.

- the problem of idolatry does not go away the moment you become a follower of Christ…

- in fact, we have just entered the season of idolatry unleashed in this country…which is one of the sad ironies of the Christmas season…

- however, the war does become winnable…

- that’s why God wants you to continue to consider the beauty of His Son…

- this “behold my servant” is not a one- time act—it is a life-long habit…that’s why the writer of Hebrews said…

- Hebrews 3:1 - Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…

- the antidote to finding joy in sinful idolatry is not trying to kick the habit cold-turkey…it’s seeing that our wonderful Savior is the worthy object of our love, affection, adoration, and commitment…

3. Let the Messiah’s character become your own.

- this promised Messiah was never intended to be the Father’s last child...

- do you agree with that?...

- in another place that speaks of the beauty of the coming of Christ, the apostle John says, John 1:12-13 - But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

- and after a person is reborn, whose character are you to put on?...the same as the perfect servant prophesied long ago…which is why Paul would say…Romans 8:28-29 - And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;

- the firstborn among many brethren who?...the firstborn among many brethren, you…

- which means that this passage is Isaiah serves as a roadmap for the character God is seeking to develop in each person who claims to be one of His children…

4. Let your service for Christ flow out of a profound respect for our Savior’s mission.

- nothing that is said in these verses could ever be proclaimed about any idol every conceived in the heart of man…

- but there is something compelling and attractive to the heart of man about the purpose God planned for His Son…and the privilege of possibly participating in that work should give us strong motivation to serve Him this Christmas with joy and delight…

- now, [perhaps with renewed vigor] let’s go back to our main point -- I. Consider Christ Because of the Uniqueness of His Person…

A. God’s chosen Servant.

- Isaiah 42:1 - Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one…

- this is a significant part of what gives the Christmas story its charm and beauty…

- you would have expected the King of the world to be born in regal splendor with all the attendant pomp and grandeur…but He was born out back…in a manger, because there was no room for Him in the Inn…

- by the way, I believe this is one of the many strong reasons to believe in the authenticity of Scripture…what human being or group of human beings would have ever conceived of such a Messiah?...we would have designed someone who in many ways was the polar opposite…

- there’s so much that could be said about how Jesus fulfilled this part of the prophecy, but consider this quote from John Calvin in his commentary on Isaiah…”There is something still more extraordinary, on account of which this name belongs especially to Christ, for He is called a ‘Servant’ because God the Father not only enjoined Him to teach or do some particular thing, but called Him to a singular and incomparable work which has nothing in common with other works.” (John Calvin, Commentary on Isaiah, p. 284).

- in other words, He was chosen to offer the ultimate form of sacrifice, to die for someone else’s sins…the passage also tells us…

B. Was a delight to His Father.

- Isaiah 42:1 - Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights…

- isn’t it wonderful to think about God the Father delighting in His Son?...what a marvelous and perfect relationship…that’s what happens when sin is not part of the picture…

- it’s a very short walk from here to the baptism of Christ...do you remember what happened on that occasion?... Matthew 3:16-17 - After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him,and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”

- in that act the Lord was identifying Himself with the truth of John’s message…about the necessity of repentance and how Jesus was the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world…

- and Christ fully understood what was involved in identifying Himself with that message, and He did it anyway…and therefore His Father was well-pleased…

- another clear emphasis is that Christ…

C. Will minister with quiet humility.

- Isaiah 42:2 - He will not cry out or raise His voice, nor make His voice heard in the street.

- “God’s answer to the oppressors of the world is not more oppression, nor is His answer to arrogance more arrogance; rather in quietness, humility, and simplicity, He will take all of the evil into Himself and return only grace.  That is power” John Oswalt, NIC, Isaiah, vol. 2, p. 111)
 

D.  Will bring forth justice to the nations through the proclamation of His law.

- v. 1 – He will bring forth justice to the nations

- v. 3 – He will faithfully bring forth justice

- v. 4 - …until He has established justice in the earth

 

- that was one of the points we saw about idolatry in the earlier chapters…the idols can’t talk…they can’t reveal truth…they can’t give law…

- which is why mute idols end up sounding a lot like their rebellious owners..

- where my false god confirms my lack of justice…

- so sure I don’t pay my employees fairly, but that fuels my god of materialism…

- or I cheat on my taxes, but that fuels my god of rebellion to government authority

- or I don’t care about the rights of the unborn, because I worshipping at the altar of apathy and indifference…

- Part of Jesus’ uniqueness is that He will bring forth justice to the nations…

- especially to those who are weak…don’t you love verse 3… Isaiah 42:3 - A bruised reed He will not break and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…

- He is especially concerned about just and gracious treatment of those who are weak…

- the overall point here is – consider Christ because of the uniqueness of His person…there is perfection and authenticity at every turn…

- of course one possible question or concern is – but is this kind of promised messiah going to be able to accomplish these things?...that’s where the middle portion of the prophecy comes in…

II. Follow Christ Because of the Assurance of His Mission – 42:5-9.

- you may have noticed a distinct change in verse 5 because the Father begins speaking directly to His Son…

- there is no question that everything that has been spoken thus far will be very difficult to accomplish…

- to live as a Servant in a selfish world, to bring justice to a rebellious world, to bring healing to a broken world…and to do it with humility and grace…

- but remember Who it is who has given this mission…

A. A mission conceived by the Creator Himself.

- Isaiah 42:5 - Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and its offspring…

- now, you might say – wasn’t Jesus also involved in the act of creation – absolutely – John tells us that without Him, there wasn’t anything made that was made…

- but the Bible also tells us that while on earth, Christ voluntarily surrendered the independent use of some of His attributes of deity – He emptied Himself…

- but all of the resources of our Creator God were available to assure that this mission would be accomplished…

- some of us have been to some beautiful places this year and we have seen the hand of God on display perhaps even more gloriously than in Tippecanoe county – and the point here is – God did that…

- and Isaiah wanted His readers to understand – idols can’t create things, idols don’t sustain things…but the servant’s mission would be backed by all the resources of our Creator God…

- that thought is picked up again in verse Isaiah 42:6 - I am the Lord, I have called You in righteousness, I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You…

 

B. A mission focused on people.

- Isaiah 42:5 - …Who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk in it…

- Jesus centered His life on ministry to people…He frequently went out of His way just to serve a person or two in need…and sometimes He would have spent the entire night in prayer in preparation for that kind of intimate, personal ministry…

C. A mission providing hope and redemption.

- Isaiah 42:7 - To open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.

- you have to wonder what Isaiah’s original audience must have thought of all of this…what kind of Messiah is this going to be?...

- what an unusual Person and what an unusual mission…

 

- now, if you’re starting to think about some of the take-aways, it’s not hard to find them…this is exactly why we’re doing many of the things we’re doing this Christmas…

- many of you are participating in Christmas for Everyone…in fact, we get a few more names each week—because we are also working with other churches and we want to serve them first…

- but around here, if you wait until after the last service to go to the table, we’re generally all out of names…those early service people scarfed them all up…

- why?...because we love the uniqueness of Christ’s person, and we are grateful for the assurance of His mission…

- and to think about someone in our town who might be like a bruised reed, or a dimly burning wick…someone who feels like their eyes are spiritually blind, or they’re imprisoned to their wrong choices…

- we want to participate in the perfect mission of our Savior…who came to seek and save that which was lost…

- there are a lot of days around our church that I absolutely love…one of the them is distribution day for Christmas for Everyone [12/12 this year]…main street in the community center is transformed into a gift wrapping paradise…you’re constantly wondering how the Lord might use that small expression of love in the heart of someone who really needs it…

 

- there’s also the issue of bringing justice to this lost and dying world…of course ultimately the Messiah will accomplish that in the millennial kingdom that He establishes on this earth in complete fulfillment of the OT promises and prophecies…but we His people can certainly be the representatives of that justice when and where God has called us…

- but this passage helps us understand the way we are to carry ourselves as we seek to establish justice…

- several of you forwarded me copies of the Manhattan Declaration that was published by a group of Christian leaders on November 20th of this year…it is subtitled a call of Christian conscience and it addresses the issues of the sanctity of life, and the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman, and the value of Christian liberty…

- it is an excellent document and there is much there that we would agree with…

- but the challenge is – how do we promote that kind of justice in a way that is consistent with the model of our promised Messiah?...

- for example, with abortion…should we exclusively focus on legislative debates and essentially become another political action group as a church?...

- or should we encourage sexual chastity among single people in our church, and sexual fidelity in marriage because we want to address the core issues that lead to abortion in the first place…and because we understand that judgment begins in the household of God…

- and should we support an organization like Vision of Hope to help unwed mothers allow their babies to live till full term and be born into a Christian environment…

- see, is justice something we argue about or is justice something we model…and in some cases, we’re called upon to do both…but which do we do first, and most?...

 

- or the sanctity of marriage?...do we constantly argue gay marriage, or do we promote healthy marriages inside the body?...

- and do we stand ready to help those whose marriage partners have been unfaithful to them and refuse to repent?...

- is justice something we argue about or is justice something we model?...

 

- the more the people in our community see us forsaking our idols and following our Savior, the more likely it is that they will be willing to seriously consider repentance and belief themselves…

 

D. A mission regarding personal sacrifice.

- we’re not able to deal with every phrase as much as I’d like…but we have to mention the second half of verse 6…

- Isaiah 42:6 - …I will appoint You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations…

- that is a fascinating statement…every covenant God ever made with His people was broken by them…

- but some aspects of those covenants were unconditional…and the only way they could be completely fulfilled was if the perfect Lamb of God became the covenant…

- which is why it was so important when Paul recorded that at the last supper, 1 Corinthians 11:25 - In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

- and because of that…it could be…

 

E. A mission that places the glory where it belongs.

- Isaiah 42:8 - I am the Lord, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another, nor My praise to graven images.

- that is why when men and women say – I am so in love with Christ that I enjoy living for Him and serving Him…

- booze could never replace what I have in Christ…material things could never satisfy like Him…the idols available at vanity fair are a cheap and worthless substitute…I choose to trust, and I choose to love, and I choose to serve God’s predicted Messiah…because it is a joy to do so…

- people can tell that…

- we often hear that at the Living Nativity – not just that it’s well organized, or a great presentation, but that people actually seem to enjoy serving…even when the weather’s not that great…etc…[you can even wave a flashlight joyfully…]

 

III. Praise Christ Because of the Glory Due His Name – v. 10-13.

- this servant song ends with an invitation to sing…

- I would encourage you to get some great Christmas music this season…and praise the name of our perfect redeemer…

- v. 10 – Sing to the Lord a new song.  Sing His praise from the end of the earth.

 

- [talk about the Christmas musical and Christmas Eve services…times to publically repudiate the idols of man, and sing with all our might about the beauty of our Savior]

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video