September 16 2012 Sermon
Isaiah 50:4 The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary. Morning by morning he awakens; he awakens my ear to hear as those who are taught. 5 The Lord GOD has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious; I turned not backward. 6 I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. 7 But the Lord GOD helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced; therefore I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. 8 He who vindicates me is near. Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me. 9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps me; who will declare me guilty? Behold, all of them will wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them up. 10 Who among you fears the LORD and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the LORD and rely on his God.
“The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught…” Who said this? Who is doing the talking? This Old Testament passage doesn’t make much sense unless you know who the speaker is.
In the book of Isaiah, there are 4 servant songs. This is the third out of the four. The suffering servant who is speaking in these servant songs turns out to be the Christ, the Son of God, the Second person of the Trinity, who some 700 years after he spoke this song was incarnate in the Virgin Mary and was made man, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
That Jesus Christ is the one who says to you this morning: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of those who are taught, that I may know how to sustain with a word him who is weary.” Yes, that was the very same Jesus who said, “Come unto me all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Mat 11:28), he is the one who sustains the weary with his word. The Lord has given him the tongue of those who are taught. He was taught by his Father. Morning by morning he awakens his ear and speaks to him and gives him his word so that by his word he might sustain you when you are weary, when you are heavy laden. The Word of Jesus sustains you. The word of Jesus declares your sins forgiven, since “You are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.” (John 15:3). The word of Jesus gives life, for “Whoever hears my word and believes…has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24). The word of Jesus sets you free, for “If you abide in my word you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” (John 8:31).
Morning by morning the Lord God opened Jesus’ ear and he sought his Father’s word. For he was not rebellious. He lived in perfect obedience.
That, in sharp contrast to ourselves. For there are those of you who do not open your ears morning by morning to hear the word of the Lord God. Who think you already know it all and there is nothing more to learn. Who think that because you have been confirmed you have graduated from the study of God’s Word. Those who think that now that you are baptized and confirmed you no longer sin and need forgiveness. Who think that the Bible is just for children, but you are grown up and are more mature.
But the Lord Jesus sustains you when you are weary with his word. Who doesn’t get weary? Who doesn’t need to be sustained? Jesus was obedient to hear that Word and learn it morning by morning. He was obedient in order to save you from God’s anger and punishment on account of your disobedience and rebellion.
In fact what we see here in this text is his total commitment to save you from your sin. He was determined to run the race, to go the course, to cross the finish line in order to save you. He says here, “I did not turn back. I gave my back to those who strike, I gave my cheeks to those who pull out the beard. I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. I set my face like a flint.” The more difficult it became the more resolute and determined he became to save you from God’s wrath and punishment. He did not turn back. He set his face toward Jerusalem and he went forward to the cross without flinching. He gave his back to be scourged and lashed. Why? Those were the lashes that you deserve because of your rebellion and sin. But he was determined to stand in your place and take the punishment you deserve. He gave his cheeks to those who pulled out the beard. Remember, “He told us to turn the other cheek.” Well, He is the one who actually did turn the other cheek. Sometimes we justify ourselves by saying that his command is impractical and undoable. And while we are busy justifying our disobedience, he was busy doing it…for us.
He gave his cheeks to those who pull out the beard. Pulling out the beard or shaving it off in Jewish culture was an utter disgrace. It was shameful to go about without a beard. Cutting off the beard was a sign of your sin and was done as an act of sorrow and humiliation for sin. So pulling out Jesus’ beard has overtones of the shame of sin, your sin which he was carrying; your sin which he bore so that he might suffer your shame in your place. He did not hide his face from disgrace and spitting. He did not hide from the disgrace that is yours on account of your sin. He suffered the disgrace of your sin. All this he did in your place. The beatings, the spiting, the lashes, the shame, the disgrace he took it all for you with determined resolution. He did not and would not turn back from the task of saving you. He set his face like flint toward the cross which he chose to suffer for you. He went resolutely to his death to get the punishment and humiliation that you deserve. And he was determined to do it. He wasn’t forced. He wasn’t an innocent victim. He volunteered for your sake and was resolute with a face set like flint that could not be turned away; could not be deterred. And ultimately he met his God on the cross, who poured out fiery wrath and punishment on him because he was hanging there in your place. He was abandoned by his Father on the cross because of the sin he bore; but is was not his sin, rather it was your sin and my sin.
But all this suffering he endured; his shame and humiliation; his death on the cross abandoned by God his Father was not the end. He says in our text: “But the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been disgraced.” “I set my face like a flint and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He who vindicates me is near.” In all his shame, in all the humiliation, in all the guilt he bore for your sins, in the end he was vindicated. He was raised from the dead and by his resurrection was declared to be the Son of God. (Romans 1:4). As St. Peter preached, “This Jesus whom you crucified, God raised up…being therefore exalted at the right hand of God. This Jesus whom you crucified, God has made him both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32-38). His shame was turned to glory. His humility turned to exaltation. He was vindicated. One day he hung on a cross in the shame of sin, and three days later, when all sin had been paid for, he was declared innocent of all charges, the holy and blameless Son of God. All his shame was replaced with glory! Then his accusers stood in shame. His enemies could not stand against him. He offers the challenge: “Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who is my adversary? Let him come near to me.” Basically saying to his enemies, “OK, put ‘em up! Let’s go to it and have it out. I’ll fight you to the finish.” “Who will accuse me of any wrongdoing? Who will declare me guilty? The Lord God helps me.” Since all sin had been paid for, the Lord God has declared me innocent. “Where are you, my accusers.” The verdict is in! I have been vindicated!
So now, today, as the baptized children of God, because of faith in Jesus Christ, that is you talking. Christ is talking in your place. He is putting these words in your mouth. For he has taken your shame and disgrace and nailed it to the cross. The shame and disgrace of your sin was turned to glory when you were raised from the dead in holy Baptism. Jesus has taken away your shame and guilt. Now in Christ he defies all your enemies. Who will contend with you? Let him stand up. Put on the gloves. Take the first punch. Who is your adversary? Let him come near to you. Actually, your real adversary is God. It is God who before you came to faith in Christ accused you of sin. It is God who was threatening to punish you with everlasting fire. God was your enemy, or better yet, you were God’s enemy. On account of sin you were enemies with God. But now, in Christ, by faith, you have been reconciled to God. He is no longer your enemy, but your Father. Will God declare you guilty? Christ has removed all sin. In Christ you are declared innocent. All charges have been dropped. God has declared you perfect and without spot or blemish. Through faith in Christ you are vindicated and set free from all accusations and charges. By faith in Christ you have escaped God’s wrath and punishment. By faith God counts you righteous and holy. So on the Last Day when you stand before the judge of all people, the verdict will be, “Innocent of all charges! Come,…inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Amen.