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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:God Rewards his Faithful Servant
Text:Isaiah 53:10-12 (View)
Occasion:Easter
Topic:Death Defeated
 
Preached:2018
Added:2018-04-08
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hy 31:1,2                                                                                          

Ps 86:1,2

Reading – Isaiah 42:1-13; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Ps 16:1,3,4,5

Sermon – Isaiah 53:10-12

Hy 25:1,7     

Hy 41:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Brother and sisters in Christ, if you’ve ever visited a cemetery, then you’ll have noticed how people try to honour the dead. They do by setting up stones and statues, and placing flowers and candles. This is done because after death, we want to cherish the memory of our loved one, and be grateful for who they were. All the more so, when a person has given their life in service of others. This is why we have monuments in many of our towns and cities: to commemorate those who fought and died in war. We give thanks when it seems like a death is not in vain, and we want to remember it.

Christ our Saviour died in the service of others. He laid down his life for his sheep, and his death was not in vain. For even though He didn’t deserve to die, it was the LORD’s will for him to do so. This was his mission, and He gladly chose to accept it.

Still today you can go the reputed site of Christ’s grave, in the city of Jerusalem. It’s a fancy church, with golden ornaments and lots of candles. You might say that for someone who has died, it’s a fitting memorial, an appropriate resting-place. But God had a different honour in mind for his Son. Not military medals and ribbons, not sparkling stones and statues, but resurrection! In fact, if He stayed in the grave, his mission would’ve been a failure, and we’d still be in our sin. But Christ completed his work, so the LORD has raised him from the grave. This is our theme from Isaiah 53:10-12,

God rewards his faithful Servant by raising Him from the dead:

  1. his earthly suffering was complete
  2. his deadly labours will justify many
  3. his heavenly glory is deserved

 

1) his earthly suffering was complete: In the latter half of his book, the prophet Isaiah has given us four “Servant Songs.” Together they form a portrait of what the LORD’s servant will be like, and the redeeming work He’ll do. This was the heart of it: how the Servant would be oppressed and afflicted; He’d be treated with injustice but remain silent; He’d be cut off from the land of the living and then be laid in a tomb, like any other sinful person.

That was his mission, and in our text the LORD reviews what his Servant has done. Now He gives an assessment of what the Servant has accomplished, and the kind of reward that He deserves. You might compare it to the job evaluation that some of us have to undergo from time to time, when your boss considers your productivity, and even reviews your wages.

We actually begin at the end of our text, where the LORD declares, “He poured out his soul unto death, and He was numbered with the transgressors” (v 12). When you look back on it, that’s what the Saviour did. For his whole life, He allowed himself to be ranked with sinners.

Simply by the fact of his coming to earth as a man, the Lord showed that He’d be one of us. He didn’t despise the virgin’s womb. He didn’t shy away from taking on our flesh. He was willing to be like his brothers in every respect.

Then in his ministry, this continued, for Jesus kept company with prostitutes and other sinners. He paid attention to the sick and demon-possessed, even though most people assumed that these kinds of folk had done something wicked to deserve their suffering. No, Jesus never shied away from being with people who had problems. At times, it got him into trouble: the Pharisees called him a friend of tax collectors. If you’re known by the company you keep, it’s no wonder that Jesus wasn’t admired. This couldn’t be the work of God’s holy Servant, hanging around with people like this!

Even at the end of his life, Jesus was “numbered with the transgressors.” He was put up beside Barabbas, so that the crowds could have their pick. Then He was condemned as a criminal, and executed in their company. He was the man in the middle, a convict hanging on either side of him. Yes, being “numbered with transgressors” meant that people turned away from him, offended and uncomfortable. But from the Father’s perspective, it says so much about why Jesus came: He came for sinners. He came to be one of us.

That’s a precious truth to hold onto. Sometimes we wonder why anyone would like us, or stick with us. When we think about our sins, our imperfections and failures, we can get this terrible feeling of isolation. Who’d ever want a person like me? Who’d give anything up for our sake? Especially in times of suffering too, we think: Who is ever going to help us? Who’s going to be the one standing beside us in our darkest hour?

Christ will, for He doesn’t mind being numbered with transgressors. The Bible says that He’s sympathetic—literally, that He suffers with us—because He knows the human experience. He’s intimately familiar with the life that we lead. Hebrews says that “we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (4:15). That gives confidence, because the risen Christ is with us. When we seek him in faith, there’s not any sin that shocks him, not any failure that He hasn’t heard about, nor any hardship that can break the bond.

“Prove it,” someone says, “How can we be so certain of his love?” And the Father tells us: “Look what He did when He came. See how He died.” This is how far it went, says the LORD: “He poured out his soul unto death” (v 12). There we hear another hint of Christ’s willingness. His soul wasn’t taken from him; it didn’t slip out of his fingers. It was intentional, like when Christ said, “Into your hands I commit my spirit.” This was his offering.

In so doing, says the LORD, “He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (v 12). What we could not give, He gave. What we could not suffer, He was willing to suffer, even to the bitter end.

And this is a message that we need to hear, again and again. Because it means we have full forgiveness in Christ. It means that when you suffer in the present time, it’s not to atone for things you did wrong. When you suffer the various pains of life and the heartaches of brokenness, the Father isn’t punishing you. He’s not tormenting you, getting back at you for some forgotten failure. No, the Father loves you, because Christ carried the curse of all your sins, and He carried it completely. He bore the sin of many.

As God appraises the work of his chosen Servant, in this verse He notes something else about what Christ did: “[He] made intercession for the transgressors” (v 12). What does it mean to make intercession? To pray on someone else’s behalf. Compare it to when there’s someone we know who is in trouble, who is sick or suffering or distressed, and we pray for them. We bring their needs to God in heaven. This is what Jesus does, for He’s a man of prayer.

Even on the cross, Jesus prayed for those who were busy with the execution: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing.” He prayed they’d come to see that they crucified God’s Messiah. He prayed that they’d have time to confess their sins and repent.

Today Christ is risen, He is ascended, and He is still praying: “He makes intercession for the transgressors.” Think about what that means. When we go through a time of distress, isn’t it reassuring when fellow believers say they’re praying for us? That’s all they might say—“I’m praying for you”—yet we know it’s good that our burdens are being brought to the LORD. God is hearing about us, He’s being pointed in our direction, being asked to take action on our behalf.

If we find strength in the prayers of the saints, how much comfort should we find in the prayers of our risen Saviour! Even while He’s in heaven, He’s our Advocate who never stops interceding. Christ brings all our needs—great and small—before God. There in heaven, “where all things are under his feet” says Paul (1 Cor 15:27), our security is his priority. Christ’s constant concern is for our well-being.

It’s a treasure to meditate on this truth. We realize we’re not helpless in this world; we’re not alone and drifting, but our lives are firmly in the King’s embrace. The one who takes care of us from heaven is the same one who laid down his life for us on the cross. At the cross, we saw his devotion and witnessed his great love. And that hasn’t changed at all, now that He’s risen from the dead. Actually, his power and ability are even greater! So let us know, and let us trust, that we’re in his good hands, today and forever.

 

2) his deadly labours will justify many: We began by saying that it’s important when a death is not in vain, when a death has some purpose. Otherwise, people fear that it’s just a waste. Considering again Christ’s death, we see it was no accident. That’s what Isaiah declares in verse 10, “It pleased the LORD to bruise him.” This was God’s will, that Christ be oppressed and killed.

So we know that even his deadly labours have a purpose. The sorrow of the cross will give way to the joy of the empty tomb. And that’s the reward God begins speaking about in verse 11. The LORD announces about his faithful Servant, “He shall see the labor of his soul, and be satisfied.” Jesus will see the blessed outcome of all his work!

Compare it to when you’ve worked hard for something. If you’ve given a lot to a certain cause, if you’ve spent energy and time and money on something, then you hope to see it reach a good completion. You want to see the day when the house is finally done, or when your school project is at last completed, or when all your children have matured and started out on their own. There’s a sense of fulfillment and grateful accomplishment when you can look on the work that God has allowed you do to.

God says that Christ will see the fruit of his labours. As the LORD’s servant He had done much in suffering, He had spent himself completely by dying—but if He remained dead, and stayed in the grave, He wouldn’t have been able to enjoy it. If He stayed in the grave, Christ would never have seen the apostles go out and preach his message. If his eyes stayed shut, He’d never have watched as the church grew and thrived and spread across the globe. Why, if Jesus had remained dead, none of these things would’ve happened anyway! But Jesus came out of the grave in great joy, to see the labour of his soul, for He’d made possible the salvation of many.

Jesus sees the outcome of all his toil, says verse 11, “and [He is] satisfied.” For Jesus had given everything to this work. During three years of ministry, He’d wept, He’d struggled, He’d prayed—He’d laboured day and night to preach the good news, to remain faithful to God, and to be ready for suffering. Then the hour finally came, and Christ was equal to the test. He was able to endure the torment of hell, He died, and three days later He was raised up.

And through this great work, the kingdom of heaven is opened. Through his labours, the devil is destroyed. Through him, all of creation is made new. Yes, when the resurrected Jesus surveys his work, He can be deeply satisfied, content with all his efforts. His life’s work has been crowned with great blessing.

For it means, the LORD says in verse 10, that “his soul” can be made “an offering for sin.” You remember from Leviticus how God’s law made it possible for a leper to be ritually purified by offerings, or for an offense to be atoned for. It’s about the removal of sin, the clearing away of pollution. It used to be done by the blood of animals, and now it’s possible in Christ. God looked at Jesus’ offering for sin, and He accepted it: this is enough, this is sufficient.

And so the LORD makes this declaration, “By his knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many” (v 11). That’s language from the courtroom, about justifying, or being declared innocent. Earlier in Isaiah, God had called his people into court. Israel was put on trial, like all people are put on trial before God. Standing before him, we’re accused of offending God’s most high majesty by breaking his holy laws. The outcome of our trial before God is not in doubt.

But then our heavenly Judge allows a Mediator to step in on our behalf. The Judge accepts the work of Christ and He says, “By his knowledge my righteous Servant shall justify many.” Through him, guilty sinners will be made right with God.

Now, the translation of that verse isn’t really clear; we could put it this way: “The many who know my righteous Servant will be justified.” The absolutely vital thing then—the matter of life and death—is that we know Christ. For when we know Christ, we are declared righteous. When we know him, we’re cleared of all our wrongdoing and set free.

And what does it mean to know the righteous Servant? Knowing Christ isn’t the same as knowing your Catechism (as important as that is). Knowing Christ isn’t the same as knowing the confessions, or all 66 Bible books in order. To really “know” someone is to be connected at an intimate level with them, where you know their heart, and they know yours. To know Christ “the righteous Servant” is to find your delight in who He is—to delight in his love, his faithfulness, his goodness—to know his character, to trust him, and to open yourself to him.

You know that you know Christ when you confess, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner! I know I’ve strayed like a sheep—but for the sake of Jesus Christ, take me back. The risen Christ  is the One I need. In him, please restore me to what I ought to be!” And God will. Through his righteous Servant, the Judge will grant us life.

When Christ sees us respond to his life’s work in this way, He is satisfied. This is what He did it for, why He gave himself as an offering. When we live by faith in his Name, Christ is glad, for this has been the labour and purpose of his soul. For this joy that was set before him, He endured the cross and despised the shame! This is why He did it: to rescue us from wrath, and to bring us to glory.

 

3) his heavenly glory is deserved: No one knows exactly, but Christ was about 33 when He died. By any account, it was a pretty short life—He’d only just begun his time here when He was “cut off from the land of the living.” But we’ve been saying that God rewards him for a job well done; the Father will pay him his wages for a mission accomplished.

And He did that through Christ’s resurrection. By Christ’s resurrection, the Father declares that all the suffering and all the pain had been enough. By his resurrection, the LORD demonstrates that the price paid was sufficient, an acceptable sacrifice. The empty grave means the payment was full!

Isaiah speaks of this prophetically when he says of the LORD’s Servant, “He shall see his seed, He shall prolong his days” (v 10). When Christ was on the cross, it was hard to imagine a more lonely and isolated person. Cut off from everyone, even from his disciples, without family and defenders. There’s the painful question that is asked earlier in this chapter: “What has become of his generation?” (v 8). They had all left Him.

But now, says God, “He shall see his seed.” That’s the Bible’s way of speaking about children. Your “seed” are those who come from you, who go on to perpetuate your name by having children of their own. This is the reward that Christ receives: when He was on earth He wasn’t married, and He didn’t have physical children, but He receives a family in the LORD. “He shall see his seed:” all those who come to life through his death. He is given brothers and sisters, even an entire people—a multitude that no one can count, for so many have been forgiven in him. Like Isaiah says, “So shall He sprinkle many nations,” sprinkling many with the blood of cleansing, and glorified by many (52:15).

“He shall see his see, and his days shall be prolonged” (v 10). This was another Old Testament proof of blessing: long life, a full number of years. Christ might’ve lived only 33 years on earth, but He arose from the grave and ascended into heaven. So we hear him declare in Revelation 1, “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore” (v 18). Christ was dead, but now his resurrected life goes on for everlasting. He is eternal, the same yesterday, today and forever!

As He lives forever, Isaiah says, “The pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand” (v 10). That’s a picture of the risen Jesus today, busy with the will of God. Today in heaven, He’s continuing his labours, for now He prospering his people, ruling over all things, and receiving endless worship.

Finally, when the work of the Suffering Servant on earth is done, the LORD declares, “I will divide him a portion with the great, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong” (v 12). “Dividing spoil” is an old picture of warriors who’ve just been to battle and won. After a victory where they’ve taken villages and cities and all their treasures, the soldiers sit down and divide the spoils. They hand out each person’s share as a reward for success in battle.

For Jesus, there was a time when it looked like all was lost. But by Easter Sunday it is clear that this warrior was triumphant. He’d conquered the kingdom of darkness, and was already enjoying the results: eternal peace, true freedom, and great glory.

And now He shares it with us, “He shall divide the spoil with the strong.” Christ takes from everything He gained by his death and resurrection—his own wealth and honour—and He gives generous portions to his people. By faith we receive endless blessing from Christ, for we get to share in all the peace and glory that comes from the LORD’s work. The risen Christ sends us the gift of his Holy Spirit. He gives us free access to the throne of God’s grace. He gives us the power of his Word, and the encouragement of his sacraments. All this He has gained, and He gives is to us!

When we talk about the resurrection of Christ, it’s really just the beginning. The joyous event of his resurrection—the first, exciting day of the victory—is just the start of the spoils. For there’s also the promise of perfect rest. There’s also the promise of the great home-coming for all of God’s people, when we too will be resurrected in Christ’s power, and when we too will be given our places in the Father’s house.

Through Christ’s resurrection, we are confirmed in the great victory and treasure that is ours by faith. If you know Christ, then you’re already on the path to glory. If you know Christ, and you’re working for Christ, then your earthly labours are not in vain. Your works today have a purpose, if they are done for him. The Father forgets none of his children, but He gives them to his Son for all time. In the risen Christ we have the promise and the guarantee that we will live with him forever!   Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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