Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
March 1, 2015
Unless your wood is wet a little Bible study could light your fire
Today I want you to do a little Bible study with me in the Book of Isaiah. Stay with me now. Don’t drop back and punt. I think you will find this helpful if you hang with me.
First of all, I will admit that understanding Isaiah is no small task. But that is no reason not to try. The “Servant Songs” of Isaiah present quite a challenge. While these songs are beautiful and inspiring, they leave us puzzled as to the identity of the “servant.” Is the servant the nation of Israel, or Cyrus, or Isaiah himself or the promised Messiah? If Israel, which Israel – the blind and wayward Israel or the idealized Israel?
Depending on which verses you are reading, the answer surprisingly may be “all of the above.” However, in many verses, such as 49:5-6, I believe the Suffering Servant is the Messiah, “who will bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Some are convinced these verses refer to Israel, not to the Christ. But careful study of verse six suggests that a truer rendering of the words may be that the Lord has appointed the Servant “to be my salvation to the ends of the earth.” So Christ is not merely the means to our salvation; he is our salvation! And Isaiah’s “Servant” is surely the Christ, the promised Messiah.
Old Testament Scholar John Oswalt argues that neither Israel nor any human prophet could restore, or bring back, Israel to God. Israel could not save itself any more than you can save yourself. A Savior is needed for that task! The reference to “too light a thing” means, as Oswalt says, that the Servant’s mission “is the restoration of an estranged world, along with an estranged Israel, to God.” No man or nation can handle such an assignment!
Let’s push ahead and consider what kind of God we serve and how this God wishes for us to serve him. Can the study of Isaiah help us conclude that God is willing to give us strength to overcome trouble and serve him faithfully? I believe so.
Now for a little use of your Bible. Open it and turn to chapters 49 and 50 of Isaiah. Read meditatively. Observe what God is saying to you through the prophet’s writing. Ask God to speak to you as you read. When you come across an encouraging phrase, repeat it to yourself – as though God is speaking to you today right where you are.
Here are a few phrases that stirred my own soul as I read Isaiah 49-50 in the New Living Translation:
“You are my servant . . . . and you will bring me glory.”
“I will trust God for my reward.”
“The Lord has honored me, and my God has given me strength.”
“Sing for joy. . . Rejoice . . . Burst into song.”
“See, I have written your name on my hand.”
“Those who wait for me will never be put to shame.”
“All the world will know that I, the Lord am your Savior and Redeemer.”
“For I can speak to the sea and make it dry!”
“Morning by morning he wakens me and opens my understanding to his will.”
“Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed.”
“See, the Sovereign Lord is on my side!”
“If you are walking in darkness, without a ray of light, trust in the Lord and rely on your God.”
“But watch out, you who live in your own light, and warm yourselves by your own fires.”
Unless your wood is wet some of those phrases will light your fire! There is power in the Word of God. Jesus is God’s Word. He speaks to us through Jesus. But he also speaks powerfully through the words of Holy Scripture. When I am discouraged, God can restore my soul as I let him speak to me through his Book.
When we try to serve God Satan works overtime to discourage us. He shows us all the hypocrites in the church. He points out the phony Christians who “talk” the walk but do not “walk” the walk. Sometimes Satan motivates even our fellow church members to criticize us. And when we share our faith unbelievers will belittled us.
When we grow weary in the fight Satan invites us to give up. That is when our fervor can be restored by reading, “Because the Sovereign Lord helps me, I will not be dismayed.” Then we can tell the devil to take a hike. We can learn not to flinch from rejection for “the way of the Cross leads home”!
Of course we can work hard, do our best and yet have little to show for our effort. In those moments we may feel the Lord does not care. What we are doing simply does not matter to Him. He cares about the Pope and Billy Graham but we are insignificant. That is when I need to be reminded that God has written my name on his hand! He knows me! He loves me!
He formed me in my mother’s womb! He called me to serve him. He loves me and Jesus died for me. He wakens me every morning. He opens my ear to hear his voice. Then I can cry, Thanks be to God! And I can sing “His eye is on the sparrow and I know he cares for me.” I can shout Hallelujah and overcome my depression.
If you happen to be discouraged and you are nursing battle scars earned from your service for the King, refuse to give up! Run to Jesus! Ask him to renew your spirit. Ask him to give you the grace you need to remain faithful to the end.
Soon you will be rejoicing and singing as you burst forth in song. Soon you will be able to resist Satan and shout as he flees, “I have set my face like flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. . . for my God has given me strength”!
The glory is that now you will be witnessing, without words, to believers and unbelievers alike, that the Lord your God is giving you the strength you need to remain faithful in his work. Stay the course. You will soon be Home hearing him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”!
Well, let me say it one more time: unless your wood is wet a little Bible study can light your fire and send you on your way rejoicing! Glory! + + +