Today, as we not only come to the end of Isaiah 51 but the year 2020, I think it’s no coincidence that we’re looking at this particular verse. It can only encourage and comfort us…for we know our God has all dominion, power, and authority over the Corona Virus. We also know that He is protecting and safeguarding us, our family and friends as we pray daily for them. Finally, we can take courage as we face the new year because God’s plan and purpose for us has not changed…He is still passing on divine revelation in order that more may be reached for Christ. So as God told Moses in Exodus 4:12, “Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
In Exodus 14:21-22, we see God’s miracle of dividing the Red Sea in order that the Israelites might cross on dry land…a wall of water on either side of them as they walked. In the New Testament, we see Jesus speaking to the wind and waves to still them with a single command. This is the kind of awesome power God has…for the Lord Almighty is the mightiest Warrior, our all-powerful King, and Ruler over the entire universe. Isaiah 13:4 tells us, “…like nations massing together the Lord Almighty is mustering an army for war.” This year of COVID19 and the Pandemic, God is urging His people to a much higher calling, for He is gathering and organizing troops for battle from all across the nations in order to see His glory demonstrated to the weary world that desperately needs a Savior right now. The question is…are you available?
The figurative use of the Hebrew word for dungeon in this verse gives the imagery of a pit in which snares were laid for wild animals. And in some ways, we have all felt like we’ve been sitting in a pit this past year…isolated, alone, and afraid. But we can take heart that the Lord wants to pull us out of this gloomy place…”To open the eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” (Isaiah 42:7) For it’s the Lord’s compassion and mercy that says to the captives, “Come out,” and to those in darkness, “Be free!” (Isaiah 49:10) … that’s because God is in the liberating business…”Shattering the yoke of burden and the rod of the oppressor.” (Isaiah 9:4)
This year has been one of fear and trembling over a virus that’s determined to harm, devastate, and kill. (The wrath of the oppressor bent on destruction) This fear has been perpetual, with little interruption or peace. But as we have grappled with it, we need to be reminded… it’s our Creator Who firmly established the foundations of the earth and is in complete control of all situations…COVID 19 included. For when we forget God, the end result can only be destruction…”Such is the destiny of all who forget God; so perishes the hope of the godless. (Job 8:13)
If anything, you can say for sure this year has been a year of uncertainty. From the beginning, when details about the Corona Virus were limited, to almost daily changing opinions about it, to the terrible and deadly impact it has had on so many…no wonder there is so much distrust, and doubt. That’s because it’s mere mortal men that are giving us information about a virus no one has ever seen or studied before. This verse tells us that placing our trust in man is worthless…for humans beings are frail and weak, and born to die like withering grass. We are to instead, look to the Lord… trusting Him to bring us through this pandemic, placing our faith in Him alone to do so, and believing in His compassionate mercy.
For the next few days I’m going to focus on this particular passage in Isaiah 51:11-16. Early on in the COVID 19 Pandemic these verses brought me much comfort as I realized the hope that lie within them. For you will see quickly that the theme of this whole passage is about redemption….of being brought back out of the suffering and darkness into the light and joy by our Lord. This verse holds promise for all of us…found in the simple word “will”. For someday, by His volition, the Lord will return and with Him joy and gladness as sorrow will have to flee…or as Revelation 7:17 tells us, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”
The question I have for you this Christmas morning is this…do you have room for Jesus? Is there room in your life and in your heart for the Savior of your soul…or are you too busy, too selfish, or too resistive to even consider giving Him room? Today it’s all about the giving and receiving of presents…but there’s something much more important than presents I’m speaking of…it’s His Presence in your life. To personalize Psalm 21:6, “Surely You have granted me eternal blessings and made me glad with the joy of Your Presence.” By trusting in Jesus, your life can be filled with His Presence here on earth…knowing that someday you will stand face to face in His glorious Presence forever. Or as Jude 24-25 tells us, “To Him Who is able to keep you from falling and present you before His glorious Presence without fault and with great joy – to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.” The presents under the tree this morning won’t last…they’ll wear out, break, and fade…but the Lord’s Presence in your life will last for eternity.
The shepherds that the angel was speaking to here were some of the most marginalized, under privileged, and discriminated people group of the time. But yet God chose them to be the first to hear the good news of His Son’s birth. But why? God wanted them to know that despite their low standing in society, their wretched status in the eyes of others, and their current ignoble living situation…their lives mattered to Him. The angel brought them the good news of a Savior…Jesus Christ, Who would save His people from the guilt and power of sin and from eternal death. This was as the angel heralded, good news of great joy and the shepherd’s hearts were filled with joy as they heard this. The shepherds looked to the Lord for joy and so can we today…or as Romans 15:13 tells us, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
The wise men came from great learning, wealth, and status. They had carefully followed the patterns of the stars, (Magi coming from the word for Astrologers) when suddenly a new and brilliant star appeared in the night sky. Familiar with ancient prophecies about the coming Messiah such as, “I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel.” (Numbers 24:17) or “The days are coming declares the Lord when I will raise up a King Who will reign wisely.” (Jeremiah 23:5) they immediately left to find this Promised One. These wise men were journeying from a great distance to a foreign land… traveling with serious intention to pay homage to the Messiah, but what they were really doing was searching for hope… the long expected promise of Emanuel- God with us. Today, you too can look to the Lord for hope…”a hope that is like an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (Hebrews 6:19)
Joseph’s life was suddenly thrown into turmoil as the town started gossiping about his soon-to-be wife’s pregnancy. His emotions ran the gamut from bewilderment, to anger, to heartbrokenness…his mind racing as he asked himself, “How could she? Why would she? Who was it?” He had then sadly determined that all he could do was to send her away, when suddenly an angel of the Lord appeared to him bringing light and truth to his confusion. Into the midst of Joseph’s turmoil came peace as the angel answered all the questions that were swirling in his mind. Today we too can look to the Lord for peace in the midst of our unrest, confusion, and devastation. For it tells us in II Thessalonians 3:16, “May the Lord of peace Himself give you peace at all times and in every way.” Joseph looked to the Lord and found peace…and so can you.