ISAIAH 49:1 – 51:23 and HEBREWS 11:1–22
This chapter introduces the Lord from the time He was called in the womb to the time of His hitting the mark and target for His life. This is preceded by the call that the heavenly Father placed upon Him as the Lamb who was slain before the foundations of the world (Rev 13:8). Isa 49 looks at Jesus as the Son of Man. His purpose and plan as a man is conveyed through several of the prophecies covered in the upcoming chapters. It is important for us to know Him as the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind. It is through the Son of God that we are reconciled to the Father. At the same time, we need to know Jesus as the Son of Man. He was a man and He knows what it is like to be a man. The title “The Son of Man” is a title the Lord loves. The Book of Ezekiel mentions the title “The Son of Man” on 87 different occasions. In examining the life of Jesus as the Son of Man we gain valuable insights as to how we are to live. We somehow fail to appreciate that Jesus can identify with the things mankind goes through. The only difference is that He was not conceived in sin nor did He take on sin until His appointed time at the Cross. His life and example gives us the opportunity to grow more and more in his likeness. This chapter is important because it addresses the hidden years of Christ’s life. We know about His birth and we know about his 3 ½ year ministry in the leading up to the Cross. The only other event we are privy to is when He spoke in the temple at the age of 12 (Luke 2:42-49). After this there is a silence of 18 years. What happened during this period? The first 3 verses of Isa 49 provide for us a clue.
In verse 2 the Lord is likened to an arrow. An arrow has basically two parts, the arrowhead and the shaft. What was Jesus doing at the age of 12? He was teaching in the temple. He had clarity, discernment and authority. In other words, His Words were sharp as He confounded the teachers of the law. The 2nd part of the arrow is the shaft. This speaks of our humanity that needs to be refined and polished. One can have a very sharp arrowhead but will it hit the target? The arrow must be used at the discretion and pleasure of the one who is shooting it. In this case it is the heavenly Father who has authored this arrow (Christ) for an appointed task (The Cross). In Christ’s humanity there needed to be a fashioning and tempering to ensure that when the time of his unveiling would come that the arrow would hit its mark. The Bible speaks as to how Christ learned obedience through the things He suffered (Heb 5:8). We do not know specifics of what those 18 years were like but we can assume that Jesus was in situations and circumstances that aided Him in knowing what it was like to be a man. He did all of this without sin. After the polishing was done He remained hidden in His Father’s quiver until the day of His unveiling at the River Jordan. In other words, Jesus was ready before the time but still had to wait until the precise timing of the Father. This should prove instructional to us. God may have vested a gifting or ministry in one’s life but the expression of that ministry may yet be for a future time. How does one handle such a situation? It can be likened to Joseph who was laid up in prison until the appointed time of Pharaoh’s dream. The Word of the Lord tested and tried Joseph as it did the Lord Jesus Christ (Psa 105:19). We must have an awareness of God’s timing and not move prematurely. There can be times when God may have a person prepared and hidden within the quiver and we need to learn and discern such times accordingly.
In verse 3 the Father knows that He will be glorified through His Son whom he calls Israel. This was seen on numerous occasions in the gospels. It is amazing the love that God has for Israel and the church. Christ glorified the Father throughout His earthly ministry and it will be the church and Israel that will bring glory to the Father as Christ prepares for His bride the church. In verse 4 we see that the Lord has His moments of discouragement and despair. This is the reality of any saint who looks to go on in all that God has for them. There will be those times when it seems like all is lost, that the efforts put forth were all in vain. My wife and I have had this experience on a few different occasions through our ministry years on the field. At the moment of the greatest despair we would find the Lord sending a person along who would bring perspective and strength to our dire situation. It was unexpected but it was ever so timely. The Lord knew well many such times in his role as the Son of Man, even right up to the end.
In the verses that follow we come to know more of the ministry to which the Lord was called. He was called to the lost sheep of Israel, called to those who were bound in prison needing to be liberated from sin’s hold (vs 9). He will be a means of protection and guidance for those who look upon Him (vs 10). This is an encouragement to those who may find themselves in want; the Lord comes through in some of the most unique and unusual ways. Let’s allow faith to arise as we read through these verses and become acquainted with more of His ministry.
In verses 11-12 the Lord will makes the paths of His people plain and known and the glory of God will draw many into the kingdom from far and wide. It is not difficult for us to conclude as being true in what Isaiah is prophesying seeing that much of it has already come to pass but let’s not forget that he is speaking of these momentous events some 700 years beforehand. We can take comfort in believing what Isaiah says concerning the last days seeing how comprehensive and accurate he was in his prophecies. In verses 17-26 we see the promise of the Lord to Israel concerning the enemies leaving them. It happened with the Babylonians at the time of the restoration and it will happen with the Arab nations who torment Israel in the last days. No matter how dire the situation may be the Word of the Lord will always prevail.
The Lord is taking issue with Israel for their continued disobedience to His Word. The fact that they were going into captivity was not the Lord’s doing but the result of their continual refusal to hearken to God. This is an important truth to understand. We are the product of the choices we make in life. If a soul is condemned to everlasting fire it is because of choices that were made. God pleads and goes to great lengths to help us in making right choices but ultimately it is our choice. The Lord reminds them in verse 2 that He was always available to them but they would not give heed. He even opened up the Red Sea before them and destroyed their enemies but it was all quickly forgotten. The Lord further reminded them as to how He protected and provided for them when they were in the wilderness but again they quickly forgot God (vs 3).
The attention now shifts to the Lord Jesus Christ and the level of relationship He had with the Father. One of the primary keys in the life and ministry of Jesus was the daily communion He had with His Father. Each and every day He received strength and guidance for His tasks. I like to call this relationship that Jesus had with his Father as coming from a Position of Rest. The Lord worked hard and was very busy with ministerial responsibilities but He never failed to seek out His daily portion of heavenly manna from His Father. His mercies are new every morning; do we seek after them? Each and every day he can speak a fresh Word into our Spirit; do we press into all that God has for us? Is our ear awakened morning by morning? A consistent devotional life coupled with a Bible reading plan goes a long way in helping us to be candidates who can hear and do what the Lord is speaking. In hearing the voice of the Lord there may be times when we are led into difficult places where we may be reviled and despised. There will always be easier alternatives but the question will be what is the Lord saying, where is the Lord leading (vs 5-6)? The Apostles did not go out looking to be beaten or to go through suffering but they counted it all joy when they did suffer a bit of the Lord’s reproach. Do we have the heart to be open to all that God would speak? Could we give our back to the smiters if the Lord were to lead us into such a place? The key is to have an all-encompassing love for Jesus that willingly goes through any trial or hardship for the sake of the Gospel. He is worthy of our very best no matter the price to be paid.
In verse 7 there is a picture of the Lord with his face being like a flint, undeterred from the course that has been placed before Him. This is the kind of resolve that successful missionaries have in persevering through great difficulties upon the field. We see a similar description given of the Lord in his preparing to go to Jerusalem in His final days.
Luk 9:51 And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he stedfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem,
One gets the sense of a set of spiritual blinders being placed upon the Lord that keeps Him focused and on course. There are so many distractions today that vie for our attention. We speak much about having a circumcised heart but the same is true for our eyes, our ears and lips. There is something about a deep resolve and focus that accomplishes so much. Perhaps today we take on too many projects that may in fact dilute our overall effectiveness. This is why we need to have the type of devotional life that we see in Jesus. He clearly knew His daily mission and was able to commit to it. As believers and leaders it can be easy to get caught up in all kind of projects and activities, many of them being well meaning. We need to hear that voice “This is the way, walk ye in it!
One of the keys in walking in this level of relationship is to know the Fear of the Lord. This is one of the 7 Spirits of God anointing and it helps to keep us properly aligned in His purposes. It is a conscious awareness of his presence at all times. This awareness will keep us out of trouble and it will help to negate any human sparks or initiatives that do not come from God. This is a key warning that the Lord conveys in verse 11. It is not unusual for man to seek to make His own way or provide His own light. No matter how well intended an initiative may be it has to be birthed of the Lord in order for it to endure and be fruitful. Sadly, there are many ministries and projects that operate from the sparks of men. Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Sam 15:22).
The Word of the Lord now comes to those who are righteous and wholeheartedly seeking after the Lord. Those who have such fervency for God are oftentimes lonely seeing that few others have the same level of devotion and commitment. The Lord encourages these saints to look to Him and to remember Abraham who was given the promise of multiplication. Those who have such a promise will often face seasons of barrenness and discouragement. They will witness other churches and works being blessed and perhaps be left to wonder if they have missed God in some way. The assessment of the 7 churches in the Book of Revelation helps to bring this truth into a better perspective. There are two churches in particular that are worthy of considering. How do you think the Smyrna church would fare if today’s evaluating tools were used to assess its success? They were diminished in numbers and known to have little strength. Yet the Lord saw them as rich; His methods of evaluation were quite different. Let’s compare this to the church of Laodicea which on the surface was flourishing and rich with goods. They were so rich that they did not need the help of any. I think today’s evaluative tools would sing high the praises of the Laodicean church. The Lord saw them as poor, blind and naked. They had the look of prosperity but beneath the veneer they were found to be wanting. The Lord is after those who long for the true riches, those who love righteousness and truth.
It is also helpful to reflect upon how the Lord has led us through the years. This was an exercise the psalmist undertook when he was going through a period of great difficulty. He called to remembrance the dealings of God in His past and soon discovered so many times when God met with Him and answered prayer. This renewed His faith to meet the challenges that were now facing him. We often forget the things the Lord has done in our past. A time of reflection helps to rekindle that faith and fire so that we can rise up to whatever confronts is today (Psa 77:6).
In verses 4-8 the encouraging words come forth to those who are seeking after righteousness. The more one lifts up the banner of righteousness the more such a person will be opposed. We will see later through Jeremiah and others that much of the opposition will actually come from within the church. The more one seeks to raise up the standard of righteousness the more one will be opposed.
The prophet Isaiah then seeks to stir up the people by reminding them of what God did on their behalf back in Egypt. The power of the dragon (Pharaoh-Satan) was broken and a way was made in the Red Sea for their Exodus. He pleads with them to wake up and see the big picture. In verse 11 the song of the redeemed is sung which is a prophetic picture of what it will be like in the last days. We saw this same song mentioned in Isa 35:10 a bit earlier. In verses 12-15 the Lord returns to a familiar theme of Israel’s fear of man. This is a big problem for many of us as well. We often worry and fret over what man will do to us. This is a weapon of the enemy because he is empowered when we are governed by fear. If we fear man it suggests that we are not walking in the Fear of the Lord. It also suggests that we are not acquainted with the love of God seeing that perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). If we are to fear anyone it should be the Lord who has the ability to kill the body and the soul in eternal flames (Math 10:28).
In verse 16 we see the experience of a seasoned minister. This is a person who has walked with God over time. The Word of the Lord is in their mouths and they know how to speak a Word of faith in season.
Rom 10:8 But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach;
This Word of faith comes from a steady diet in the Word of God (Rom 10:17). This is followed by a season of being covered or hidden in his shadow. This can be a difficult time because it may seem that the Lord is not using a person resulting in frustration or even bitterness. It is an opportunity for the enemy to come in and add discouragement and a sense of hopelessness. This proving time is crucial if the fullness of what God has planted within us is to grow and become fruitful. It is a season that demonstrates what is within our heart.
Isaiah now addresses Israel at the culmination of their 70 years in captivity (vs 17-20). It is in a dreadful state after the years of Babylonian rule. Jerusalem is in a drunken stupor. There is no guidance or direction that is given while the sons of Jerusalem lie as dead men at the head of every street. In verses 21-23 The Lord speaks of the judgement that is now going to come upon the Babylonians. The fear of trembling and the drunken stupor that was upon Jerusalem will now come upon the captors. As I write this I shudder for my own nation seeing many similarities now taking place. The judgements, laws and proclamations coming forth from our leaders are not only stupid but insane. Our nation has lost all sense of right and wrong and I fear for what it is coming. If these things happened to Israel of old, then how much more is it true for our so called enlightened age?
In this chapter and in chapter 52 the expression Awake Awake is mentioned several times (Isa 51:9, 17, 52:1). Today, more than ever we do need to wake up and observe all that is taking place. Let this wake-up call sound a needed alarm so that we will be prepared and ready.
Here we have the most popular chapter in Hebrews where we have categorized for us the heroes of faith. These are men and women who demonstrated exploits for God who help to encourage and challenge us to greater things in God. It is important to first understand what Faith is before seeing how these men and women excelled in faith. It is well defined in the first two verses. Faith is a substance; it is tangible meaning we should know as to whether we have it or not. It goes on to describe Faith as the assurance of things that are hoped for. What are the things hoped for? Are they things we want that God may not want? It is here where we can run into some problems. There is the danger of presuming God’s will and intent. This is not Faith, it may sound good look good and have all the elements of how we would define Faith. It must be understood that Faith originates with God, not with man. It must also be understood that Faith accomplishes the will and pleasure of God. Finally, it must be understood that it is through the medium of Faith where we can please God (Heb 11:6). It is one of the fruits of the Spirit and it serves as the basis and foundation of everything we do as believers in Christ (2 Pet 1:5). So then how do we come to the place of growing in faith and appropriating this fruit?
Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Rom 10:17). The more we study and meditate upon the Word of God the greater the opportunity we have in hearing God’s heart. If we hear God’s heart He then apportions Faith to accomplish whatever it may be that He is speaking. As we hear what God is saying we then have the ability and authority to speak and confess that Word of Faith (Rom 10:8-10). This is what Caleb did at the time Israel was called to go into the land (Num 13:30). At the same time it’s what Israel didn’t do when they refused to take God at His Word (Num 13:31). Simply put, we represent one of the two groups as seen above. Are we like Caleb or are we like Israel? Are we like the heroes of Faith that are depicted in Hebrews 11 or more like the nominal ones of Nazareth where no mighty works could be done by Jesus due to their sin of unbelief (Math 13:58).
We can spend time looking at the different examples of the men and women of Hebrews 11 but I feel drawn to emphasize the last few verses because it speaks to us and the role we have for these last days.
Heb 11:39 And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
Heb 11:40 God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.
There is a clear indicator that the church of the last days (You and I) have the responsibility of building upon the example of these heroes of faith. Their exploits and works, as great as they were, are not yet completed and made perfect without us. We need to let this truth sink in. This is why it is important for us to know what Faith is, how it is obtained and how it is appropriated. The primary danger is the presumption of faith and God’s intent. Perhaps this is best illustrated in the “Word of Faith” movement which is associated with “Kingdom Now” theology. Why is this dangerous? It makes allowance for man to determine outcomes that may contradict scripture and God’s intent. On the surface it sounds good and plausible but it can lead one down a road where he or she becomes god, presuming faith for an outcome that is anti-biblical. The Bible is quite clear as to what the world is going to be like at the time of the 2nd coming. There will be anarchy and lawlessness at its peak and it will be these forces that will be battling the Lord when He comes with his saints from on high. It is at the time of the 2nd coming when Jesus will come and establish His righteousness upon the earth which ushers in His millennial reign. We as God’s people have the mandate to be salt and light to our generation, to seek to live righteously in an evil world. Noah was one who maintained a righteous standard in the midst of a corruptive and evil environment. In other words, the kingdoms of this world will not become the kingdoms of our Lord until He comes and establishes His righteousness at the time of the 2nd coming. Our focus should be on preparing to be the bride of Christ. This is what Christ is after. There is faith and grace that can be appropriated in our pursuits of becoming more like the Son of God Himself. I feel it is presumptive and wrong to think that the church is capable of transforming society that is ready made for Jesus at the time of His return. I emphasize again that we are to seek to make a difference in whatever sphere of life God has placed us; to be witnesses of His glory and power. If Faith comes by hearing the Word of God, then we must prepare for a time of great revival but also for the time of Armageddon where the fullness of evil will gather in one last attempt to thwart the establishment of God’s kingdom upon earth. It is Christ with His saints that will conquer and triumph not the church on its own in its presumptive faith theology.
When we look at the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11 we see people who were moved upon by God in unique moments for unique tasks that God had pre-ordained. Let’s consider the Faith that came upon Moses while at the age of 40.
Heb 11:24 By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
Heb 11:25 Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
Heb 11:26 Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
Let’s try to put a modern day twist to this scenario. Would it not be more beneficial for Moses to stay in Egypt, to stay in his position of influence so as to provide a better outcome for His people? He could easily presume faith for the favor he had gained through his years in being groomed in Egypt. It would seem logical and it would seem the best means to help his people. The Bible makes clear that it was God’s FAITH that led him into the wilderness for 40 years. This does not make sense in the natural and surely Moses must have struggled with God’s purpose at this time. It is vitally important for us to know the plan and heartbeat of God. It is not our role to presume God’s kingdom to come upon earth as it is in heaven; it is our role to know what God’s kingdom is and to pray it through. Jesus knew full well the will of His Father while He was in the garden. He was not presuming faith and grace to prevail He was agonizing in seeing the will of the Father come to pass through Him. If Jesus was left to Himself He would and He did pray for an alternative but he used the word NEVERTHELESS, let your will be done! This is where it is dangerous for us. We must come to the place of ascertaining the Will of the Father and praying it through to become a reality. If we come to that place of knowing God’s Will we can tap into that medium of Faith because it is God who is authoring it, not man presuming. There will be grace and enabling power that will accompany this faith.
It is worthy to study each and every member of the Hall of Faith; to ponder over their exploits in the midst of great adversity. Let us never forget our role and responsibility. Their works are not yet complete without us. This is an enormous responsibility and it cannot be left to us to presume God’s faith; it must be known and appropriated and it is only realized through the careful reading and meditating upon the Word of God.