We are often frustrated with the Suffering in this world. Our Suffering, the suffering of family, friends and loved ones. This morning we look at Isaiah, and Jesus, and look at what they say to us about why we suffer.
(Link to YouTube Video Coming Sunday Afternoon)
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Sometimes in our walk of faith, we’re faced with questions which strike at the heart of God’s nature and his relationship with humanity. Our questions usually revolve around idea that God is loving, and all powerful, and yet we see so much suffering in the world.
Isaiah 59 begins with this type of question, and believe it or not, it’s a very common question throughout the Bible. Let’s go to the New Testament for a second and look at Peter in Matthew 16.
After the disciples tell Jesus that many say he is John the Baptist, or Elijah or a prophet, Jesus asks them who they say He is.
16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Sounds great, right! He’s been with Jesus for years, he now shows he knows God and will be the Rock stabilizing the church. Within minutes, however, he shows he doesn’t understand at all.
Because Jesus next shares with them what being the Christ is all about. And it has nothing to do with what they had in mind in terms of a powerful Moses leader taking his people to freedom.
Jesus looks to Isaiah, and begins to explain to them what God has revealed centuries ago about the Redeemer. The Redeemer would be a Suffering Servant. The Redeemer will be rejected by His people, he would bear our griefs and sorrows, and most importantly, as Isaiah said, he will Suffer and die, bearing our sins on the cross.
Peter hears this and takes Jesus aside to scold him. I mean, picture that! Peter tries to straighten Jesus out. You are God, you can’t suffer. You are all powerful. You can do all these miracles! Bring the dead to life. Aren’t you powerful enough to defeat the Romans and the Jewish leaders opposing you? Why would God’s hand be too short to save you, or his ear too dull to hear you!
Jesus gives Peter the big rebuke, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are NOT setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Suffering perspective)
And this is minutes after giving Peter the greatest compliment. I sympathize with Peter because I find myself doing this all the time. “God, I think things would work out better if you did this and this!” And like Peter, the “this” rarely involves suffering and pain.
The Bible is such a blessing to us in that it gives us such a clear picture of what God’s plan is, and how no one understands it. The Suffering Servant references begins in Isaiah 53 with these words:
Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? (NO ONE!)
What God is doing, what God’s plan is, is something quite clearly unbelievable. Much is revealed in Christ, but no one fully knows the mind of God. Read Job for more on that.
Isaiah was preaching 700 years before Jesus was born. But as you read him, he sounds like another of the apostles simply writing poetically about the events of Jesus life, which is why Isiah has often been called the Fifth Gospel. This is from chapter 53:
He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; as a man from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (because he suffered, he failed)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. – All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Again, that’s the Old Testament. Isaiah lived at a time closer to Moses than to Jesus, but he tells us how the Messiah will bear our sins, he will suffer humiliation, death and be buried in a Rich man’s tomb. It also says that after his death, he will see his offspring, and prolong his days, a reference to the Resurrection and establishment of the Church.
In our lesson, we see something else important about this Redeemer, which is essential in God’s plan. We begin with Isaiah’s discussion of the human state,
Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you,
We begin with Sin. Our sin is the great separation, our sin in this fallen world is why we suffer. Sin is a turning away from God to nothing. God’s ears are fine to hear you, and his arm is long enough to grab you. But our hearts are hard. Isaiah basically describes how God hasn’t left us, but we have left God, to embrace ourselves as God. It is our sin that made a separation from God.
We no longer look to Him, or resemble Him, and when He looks, he can’t find Truth among us, or Justice, and God is appalled.
God waited for a disobedient people to turn to Him. He waited for a person to lead them back to Him, or an intercessor to plead before Him, but none arose; …so the LORD did it Himself. (v. 16)
If a person or an intercessor would have stepped out, it would have saved Israel a lot of calamity. But the fact that no human or no intercessor stepped forward didn’t ruin God’s plan. He waited to work in partnership with us. But God’s work was still accomplished even if he had to do the whole thing. He saw there was NO ONE. So His own arm achieved salvation for HIM.
Isaiah says not only is the Redeemer, the intermediary who offers Himself to God for our sins, but he is God. God Himself achieves our salvation, from beginning to end.
Isaiah presents the Gospel, the Good News, in v. 20.
“The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord.
Redemption comes to those who confess their sins, and He is faithful to forgive their sins. Redemption not based on sacrifices, or hard work, or keeping ritual laws, but on the Suffering Servant Redeemer, who offers himself on behalf of those who are His.
All this brings us back to the idea of Suffering. Jesus, the Suffering Servant, not only took up our human nature, and all our sin, but he takes our sorrow, pain, in order to redeem them all.
But we still feel them, suffering, pain, sadness, when we are trusting in this world, rather than in him, to give us a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. Jesus last words to his disciples before his crucifixion from John 16
33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
We suffer when we trust in this world to provide our answers, happiness, and satisfaction. The answer to suffering is knowing he has taken it up, and has overcome and promised us a new creation.