Listen to the Lord, Your Redeemer! Entrust Yourselves to Him . . .
Lord God, our blessed heavenly Father, we come before You this day humbly to confess our sins, joyously to receive Your forgiveness, eagerly to hear a message from Your Word, and expectantly as we await Your blessing. Bless our worship as we approach You in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Jesus admonished the lukewarm Christians in Laodicea to turn away from trust in riches and to return to a heart-felt trust in and dependence upon God. He was standing at the doors of their hearts, even as He does at ours, knocking and desiring to enter our lives with His distinct blessings!
Jesus assured His disciples, even as He does us, that after His ascension into heaven He would remain an effective force in our lives. He will respond to our prayers. He has sent His Spirit of truth to be our Helper. He remains at our side. Let us show Him our love by obeying His command to love!
Text: Isaiah 54:7-14
“For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” says the LORD, your Redeemer. “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has mercy on you. “O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your wall of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you.”
In Christ Jesus, Who urges all who are weary and heavy laden to come to Him for rest, dear fellow redeemed:
A Christian couple suffers the loss of a child through miscarriage. A Christian man or woman loses his or her spouse prematurely due to disease or unexpectedly through a heart attack. A Christian man, woman, or child faces an uncertain future in view of a debilitating disease. A Christian family loses their home or business due to a natural disaster or a fire. Why is it that Christians suffer in this world, when the Bible assures us that our Savior is in control of this world? Why is it that Christians seem to suffer more than unbelievers in this world? Does such suffering mean that the Bible is not true? The answer to that last question is, “No”! What the Bible says is true in spite of the sufferings we endure in this world, for it remains the revelation of the one, true God Who cannot and does not lie to us. The answers to the former questions, however, are not quite so easy, for those answers involve a variety of factors.
Why is it that Christians suffer in this world, when the Bible assures us that our Savior is in control of this world? In general, it can be said that suffering originated with Satan’s rebellion against God and mankind’s subsequent fall into sin. Suffering is a direct consequence of sin. That is not to say that every time we suffer, it is the direct consequence of a particular sin we commit. You will recall that on one occasion when Jesus’ disciples asked Him concerning a man born blind, “Who sinned, this man or his parents,” Jesus responded, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:2-3). God at times chastens us in view of our sin, but most of the suffering we endure is the result of sin in general and not the result of particular sins. God has, after all, laid the guilt of our sins upon Jesus, Who paid the price for our sins and provided us with a righteousness that avails before God. It would be improper, therefore, for a child of God to view suffering as a direct punishment of sin. Instead and more often human suffering permits God to reveal His grace and glory as He works all things out for our good and causes even suffering to work His providential care in our lives.
Why is it that Christians seem to suffer more than unbelievers in this world? That is because we are opposed by Satan and this world. They seek to destroy our faith and deprive us of God’s presence and blessing. Indeed, Jesus warns us, “If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household” (Matthew 10:25), and Paul predicts, “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12). Isaiah directs the words of our text in particular to those among us who are suffering. He says, LISTEN TO THE LORD, YOUR REDEEMER! ENTRUST YOURSELVES TO HIM…
…for He cannot and will not forsake you! Isaiah ministered to God’s people during a time of spiritual decay seven centuries before the birth of Christ. The northern kingdom of Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom of Judah likewise faced the judgment of God upon their unbelief. Those faithful Christians in Judah would undergo intense suffering along with their unbelieving neighbors as God dealt with their spiritual rebellion. The words of our text were directed to those believers, so that they might have hope in the midst of their suffering. The LORD says through Isaiah, “‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ says the LORD, your Redeemer. ‘For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,’ says the LORD, who has mercy on you.”
Note the contrasts between being “forsaken…for a mere moment” and being “gathered …with great mercies” and between “hiding My face from you for a moment” and “having mercy on you…with everlasting kindness.” God does chasten us in view of our sins and when at times we suffer in this world it may seem that God has forsaken us, that He has hidden His face from us, but He promises us that it is but for a moment—literally for the “blink of an eye.” His attitude towards us is revealed not in those few moments when we experience quiet desperation, but in His great mercy and His everlasting kindness, which are ours through Christ Jesus! Paul writes, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:7-8). Through Christ and in spite of our sin God has established an everlasting “covenant” with us, in which He has promised that our sins are washed away in the blood of Christ! Let us, therefore, come to Him repenting of our sins, relying upon our Savior, and rejoicing in our Father’s grace and mercy!
Oh, yes, there will be times when we may well feel abandoned by our God, as Noah may well have felt as he floated for over a year on the flood waters, which had destroyed the earth. But God did not forsake Noah and his family, but “remembered” them and delivered them (cf. Genesis 8:1). He promised never to destroy the world again with water. He says that the “mountains…and the hills” will depart before “His kindness” will depart from us! My dear friends, God cannot and will not go back on His Word! The Bible tells us, “God is not a man, that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). The Psalmist writes, “The truth of the LORD endures forever” (Psalm 117:2b). When you and I suffer, it is not because God has forsaken us. He cannot and would never do that! Therefore, LISTEN TO THE LORD, YOUR REDEEMER! ENTRUST YOURSELVES TO HIM…
…for He will use your trials to bless you and others! My dear friends, one of the most sublime truths of all of Scripture is that God can and does use suffering in life to bring about blessing! He assures us through Paul, “All things work together for good to them that love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28). Notice that Paul says not “some things,” but “all things work together for good”—good and bad! Knowing this James tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2-3). God can and does use our trials—our suffering to help us develop those godly virtues we need to fulfill our respective callings in this life. Consequently, when we find ourselves in the midst of suffering, let us not complain to God or about God, but rather let us seek the Lord’s strength and guidance so that His gracious, good purpose can be worked in us.
Isaiah describes this work of God in our text, when he compares what God does for us through suffering with the building of a fine building. He writes, “O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your wall of precious stones.” The Bible speaks of individual believers as being the “temple of the Holy Spirit,” (1 Corinthians 6:19) and the believers as a whole a beautiful temple built together from individual stones (cf. Ephesians 2:19-22). Here Isaiah uses this same picture to point out the greatness of God. God can take the difficulties of our lives—the rough and unhewn stones left by our own sin and that of others and craft them into a work of beauty and grace. The patience, the love, the faith we exhibit in the midst of our sufferings is a fruit of God’s Spirit working in our heart. He will not only strengthen us, but will also enable us to serve as a distinct blessing to others. Isaiah refers to this when He writes, “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children.” Parents and grandparents—the way we handle the trials of our lives will be an example—either good or bad—for those closest and most precious to us, our children! They will learn through observation either to turn to the Lord in the midst of trouble with faith and perseverance, or they will come to believe that God has nothing to offer since we fail to entrust ourselves to Him!
God promises us that in the midst of trials and suffering as we cling to Him, we shall be established “in righteousness.” That righteousness, which we possess by faith in our Lord and Savior, will remain with us, for as the Scriptures testify nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). God says that as we walk through the trials and sorrows of this life hand in hand with Him, we “shall not fear,” and “terror” will “not come near you.” Consider the Scriptural examples, which abound regarding God’s providential care in the midst of troubles. God delivered the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt and into their promised land. God enabled Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego to stand before Nebuchadnezzar and to stand up to his threats to throw them in the burning, fiery furnace if they would not bow down to his golden idol. They placed their trust in God and were delivered! Consider the apostle Paul who together with Silas were beaten and imprisoned in Philippi with the distinct purpose of bringing God’s gospel to the jailer who had placed them there. But examples are not confined to the pages of Scripture. I had my son read the book, The Hiding Place, recently about Corrie ten Boom and her sister Betsie, who hid Jews from the Nazis in The Netherlands during World War II. They eventually were discovered and sent to the concentration camp at Ravensbruck. Time and time again the Lord responded to their prayers assisting them in the most difficult of situations, and while Betsie did not survive the camp until the end of the war, Corrie did along with many others who were strengthened by Betsie’s godly example and encouragement. The same thing can be said of individuals like Joni Erickson, who suffered a crippling accident many years ago, but whose life has been a blessing to others through their art work, her poetry, and her lectures.
Dear friends, suffering is never easy, but given the truths of Scripture, it can be endured and it will result in blessing, for this is what our Redeemer has promised. May we ever listen and entrust ourselves to Him! Amen.
—Pastor Paul D. Nolting