The Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost
October 21, 2018
God’s Response to Our Rebellion
Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
You find out that somebody you thought was your friend has been saying some very nasty things about you behind your back. How do you respond? Someone posts a picture of you on Facebook that you consider to be extremely embarrassing. How do you respond? Somebody sabotages you at work and gets you in hot water with the boss. How do you respond? Somebody does something to hurt your child or your grandchild. How do you respond? Your child or your grandchild does something that hurts you. How do you respond?
We have all been in situations where we have had to choose how we are going to respond to something that someone has done to us or to someone we love. How we choose to respond is oftentimes based on a variety of factors. Those factors can include things such as the seriousness of the offense and our relationship with the offender. The more serious the offense and the more personal the hurt the harsher our response might be.
If you and I were to take the most serious and the most personal thing that anyone has ever done against us or someone we love and multiply it a million times over we might— we just might— begin to understand how serious and how personal God considers each and every one of our sins. While we can look back over the course of our life and see how we have responded when someone has done something against us, while we can look into our hearts and see how we would like to respond if only we had the power and the opportunity to do so, our text for today focuses our attention on a truth for which we sinners are to be eternally thankful. That truth centers on: God’s Response to Our Rebellion. As we look at these three very powerful verses of Scripture we want to see two things. First we want to see how each of these verses reveals to us the mystery of God’s response. Then we want to see how each of these verses reveals to us the blessings of God’s response.
Isaiah chapter fifty-three is a very well known portion of the Bible that contains some of the best known passages of Scripture, such as, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (verses 4-6). Even though Isaiah lived some 700 years before Jesus was born, God the Holy Spirit enabled him to see the events of both Good Friday and Easter Sunday in miraculous detail. This entire chapter— including these words of our text— is speaking about the Lord’s Suffering Servant, our Lord Jesus Christ. This entire chapter— including these words of our text— is speaking about God’s response to mankind’s rebellion against Him.
When Adam and Eve first chose to rebel against their loving Creator thereby bringing sin upon the entire human race, looking at the situation from our perspective God could have responded in a number of different ways. God could have responded by turning His back on Adam and Eve and simply letting the entire human race suffer eternally in hell. God could have responded by destroying Adam and Eve and just starting all over again. God could have responded by requiring us sinners to try and redeem ourselves, to try to earn His forgiveness by doing as many good works as we possibly could before we died. Thankfully, God’s response to our rebellion does not follow anything that makes sense to our limited logical minds!
Look at the opening verse of our text, Isaiah 53:10. The mystery of God’s response to our rebellion is found in the words, “Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer…the LORD makes his life a guilt offering.” God’s love for you, my friends, God’s love for all of mankind is so powerful and so deep that He was “determined” to do everything that was necessary to save us from our sins— even though it meant “crushing” His own Son under the burden of our sin, even though it meant causing His beloved Son to “suffer” in our place, even though it would require Him to sacrifice His own Son’s life as a “guilt offering” to pay the debt of sin that we owed to Him. That’s the awe-inspiring mystery of God’s response to our rebellion!
What is the blessing that we now enjoy because of the fact that God’s response to our rebellion was to sacrifice His own Son in our place? (Pointing to the cross) Look at what Isaiah says, “And though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days.” The blessing that you and I enjoy, my friends, the blessing that is freely given to everyone who believes and trusts in what God has done for us (Pointing to the cross) is that we are now His “offspring.” Through the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ working in His holy Word and His holy Sacraments we are the dearly beloved adopted children of God— with all the rights and all the privileges and all the blessings that come with that glorious status. This includes the right to live forever in our heavenly Father’s Home. This includes the privilege of inheriting our heavenly Father’s Kingdom! That’s a blessing that is absolutely unparalleled!
Now look at verse eleven of our text. The mystery of God’s response to our rebellion is found in the words, “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied.” We dare not overlook or underestimate the fact that the physical suffering that Jesus endured for us on the cross was only the “tip of the iceberg.” Far more painful than having nails pounded through His hands and feet, far more agonizing than having to fight for every breath of air was the horrible hellish “suffering of his soul.” The innocent Son of God was being punished for our sins. The beloved Son of God was forsaken by His heavenly Father because of our selfishness. The perfect Son of God endured the full fury of God’s justice in the deepest recesses of the fires of hell because of our unfaithfulness. That’s the unfathomable mystery of God’s response to our rebellion!
What is the blessing that we now enjoy because of the fact that God’s response to our rebellion was to cause His own Son to endure the suffering we deserved? Look at what Isaiah, says, “…by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.” The blessing that you and I now enjoy, my friends, the blessing that is freely given to everyone who believes and trusts in what God has done for us (Pointing to the cross) is that we are justified! The Judge of all mankind has “Declared us: Not Guilty!” We no longer need to fear His condemnation! We no longer need to fear being punished for our sins! Why? Because Jesus has perfectly fulfilled the words of Isaiah, “He will bear their iniquities”! All of our iniquities, all of our transgressions, all of our sins, all of our rebellious ways were placed upon our Savior who carried them to the cross and bore the punishment that we deserved! That’s a blessing, my friends, that is absolutely astounding!
Finally, look at the closing verse of our text. The mystery of God’s response to our rebellion is found in the words, “…he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.” In the opening verse of our text Isaiah revealed to us that “It was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer.” Those words remind us that the heavenly Father’s love for us led Him to send His Son into this world to serve as our Savior. Here in the closing verse of our text we see that because of His love for us the Son of God was willing to come into this world as our true Brother and fulfill His Father’s Plan of Salvation for us. Yes, Jesus was willing to “pour out his life unto death” in order to pay for our rebellious ways. Jesus was willing to be “numbered with the transgressors” so that His perfect life and His innocent suffering and death could be credited to our account. That’s the majesty of the mystery of God’s response to our rebellion!
What is the blessing that we now enjoy because of the fact that God’s response to our rebellion is that the Son of God Himself was willing to become our true Brother and “pour out his life” for us on the cross? Look at what Isaiah says, “For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” The blessing that you and I enjoy, my friends, the blessing that is freely given to everyone who believes and trusts in what God has done for us (Pointing to the cross) is that as our great High Priest Jesus now “intercedes” for us! Every time that wretched accuser called Satan charges us with rebellion against God because of the sins that we have indeed committed, our Brother Jesus “speaks to the Father in our defense” (1 John 2:1, 2). No matter how often Satan accuses us, Jesus holds up His hands and says, “Father, I have already paid that debt.” No matter what the sin might be, Jesus holds up His hands and says, “Father, I have already paid for that one too.” That’s a blessing, my friends, that is absolutely priceless!
When we look at the mystery of God’s response to our rebellion and see the many wonderful blessings we enjoy because of His response, our hearts are filled with praise and thanksgiving. But how does this text apply to the way we live our day-to-day lives? In other words, what does this portion of Scripture lead us to do after we leave God’s house today? Look at it this way: Hardly a day or a week goes by when someone does not sin against us. It is something that we have to deal with on a regular basis. How we deal with these situations is critical! As Jesus’ brothers and sisters (Pointing to the cross) we need to follow not only the example that He has set for us, but we also need to follow the commands that He gives to us here in His holy Word. In the Lord’s Prayer our Savior Himself taught us to pray, “Forgive us our debts as we have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). In His parable of the Unmerciful Servant Jesus Himself warns us, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from the heart” (Matthew 18:35). And through His servant Paul our Savior-God says to us, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Our old sinful nature would like nothing better than to have us nurse a grudge against the person we think has sinned against us. Our old sinful nature is a genius at coming up with ways that we could “get back” at the person who has sinned against us. Whenever that happens we would do well to lift up our eyes to the cross and remember God’s response to our rebellion against Him. If we choose not to forgive someone who has sinned against us we not only disrespect the cross of God’s Son, but we also risk forfeiting God’s forgiveness for the sins that we have committed against Him.
Somebody does something or says something to hurt you or someone you love. How do you respond? While we can look back and see how we have responded in the past, while we can look into our hearts and see how we would respond if only we had the power and the opportunity to do so, as mortal sinful human beings we are eternally grateful that portions of Scripture such as our text for today so clearly and so powerfully proclaims to us: God’s Response to Our Rebellion. My prayer this morning is that we will always marvel at the mystery of God’s response and that we will always treasure the blessings that we enjoy because of God’s response.
To God be the glory!