Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Wake Up, City of God

Do you ever have one of those times when you hear a Bible passage repeated over and over in your life? Church, online, devotional reading, wherever.

Isaiah 52:13-53:12 has been that way for me over the last few weeks. Even more, I felt God prompt me to study it in depth each time I heard it. I couldn’t let it merely go in one ear and out the other.

Passover and the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection approach with each passing day. These words from Isaiah are the last of four passages referred to as the “Servant Songs.” They all prophesy the suffering of the coming Jewish Messiah. So with that divinely orchestrated coincidence, this post begins a series building up to Passover and the Resurrection in which we’ll consider this song of the servant. Today, let's only focus on the first stanza.

The Servant Jesus

When I first read through these verses something odd jumped out at me. I immediately circled it in my notes. As it turns out, the oddity would be the key to understanding this passage.

The oddity is this – the word “You.” Do you see it right there in the third line? Who is the “You” referring to since the Servant throughout the passage is referred to as “He” or “Him?”

As a Christian, I see Jesus throughout this passage – He is the Servant who will act wisely. Who else’s appearance would appall many? Could anything be as horrific as Jesus’ disfigured, mutilated body hanging on a Roman crucifixion stake?

The context for these verses helped enlighten me to whom the “You” refers. Back up to verses 1-12 of this chapter. “Wake up, wake up; put on your strength, Zion! Put on your beautiful garments, Jerusalem, the Holy City! For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no longer enter you” (Isaiah 52:1). And so it continues throughout the chapter. “You” refers to Zion, the beautiful city of Jerusalem.

Why are many appalled at Jerusalem?
After all, Israel is God’s “treasured possession” (Psalm 135:4). Jerusalem is “the city of our God” (Psalm 48:1) and “the perfection of beauty” (Psalm 50:2). This is only a very brief, quick sampling of how God feels about Zion, Jerusalem, and Israel.

However, despite all of that, the first part of Isaiah 52 reminds us His treasured possession was enslaved in Egypt and oppressed by the Assyrians (Isaiah 52:4). The rulers of Jerusalem wail and men blaspheme the name of the Lord within her (Isaiah 52:5).

How could this happen to the city – the people – that the Lord loves?
Perhaps one reason God allowed it was to serve as a picture for how His Holy Servant would also be mistreated and reviled by the world. He also would endure the extreme of separation from God before the time of His exaltation.

Despite the slavery, oppression, and groaning, God exalts His holy city. “Remove the bonds from your neck, captive Daughter Zion” (Isaiah 52:2). God redeems her (verse 3), her watchman and her ruins will both shout for joy once again (verses 8-9), and God will reveal His salvation for all nations within her (verse 10).

God will do likewise for His Servant, the Messiah. Jesus also was disfigured and beyond human recognition, but “He will be raised and lifted up and greatly exalted” (Isaiah 52:13).

Just like people were appalled with “You,” Israel, they also will be appalled with God’s Servant.

Just like God will restore and exalt His Holy City, He will restore and exalt His Servant.

And you know what? These two things are going to happen at the same time – when Jesus returns a second time.

In that moment, “all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God” (Isaiah 52:10).

In that moment, “He will startle many nations” (Isaiah 52:15).

In that moment, “Kings will shut their mouths because of Him” (Isaiah 52:15).

Because they will see and understand what didn’t previously seem possible – that Jesus, the Servant, the Messiah, is the salvation of the world.

Read about the second stanza, Isaiah 53:1-3, by clicking here: Believe It, People of God.

Read about the third stanza, Isaiah 53:4-6, by clicking here: Consider the Why, Rebels of God.

Read about the fourth stanza, Isaiah 53:7-9, by clicking here: Behold the Lamb, Children of God.

Read about the fifth stanza, Isaiah 53:10-12, by clicking here: Receive the Victory, Chosen of God

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