Songs of the Servant

Pastor Nathan Kuenzel on Isaiah 53

I’ve got the best new years resolutions… I’m not going to eat junk, going to get more sleep, watch less screens, and cut toxic people out of my life. Nobody’s ever committed to such a controversial yet brave life decisions.
But I am resolved… not exactly sure why I feel the need to keep eating chips, until the bag is gone, but I’m just going to not do that somehow… I’m resolved. Or I’m not exactly sure why I lay in bed with my mind at swimming with all the people I think I’m failing, all the things I said wrong, and all the things I still need to do, but I’m just going to sleep more somehow… now that I’m resolved.
Going to somehow watch less tv / Netflix screens, somehow not sure why I want to escape reality but somehow, I’m just going to do that less.
And I know exactly why I want to cut out toxic people, but… I’m not exactly sure where all these toxic people keep coming from…. no matter how many where I go or who I meet I keep having similar relationship problems with completely different people… but somehow, by labeling other people as bad and unworthy my time, and never speaking to them again I will somehow be better off. Because they’re the toxic ones… somehow… but I’m resolved
At this point… you might have noticed the tongue in cheek. you might have figured I think NY resolutions are silly. Goals aren’t silly. But there’s a lotta people playing whack a mole with symptoms while they ignore the disease. People make a lot of decisions to change unhealthy or destructive behaviours, while we ignore the brokenness that causes the behavior – that’s silly. Like people who smoke 2 packs a day, but resolve to cough less. Truth is: Unhealthy or destructive behaviour is a symptom of a spiritual problem
Yes, we are physical beings with spiritual longings. We long for connection, meaning, truth, justice, love, things beyond us – we naturally long for these above all else yet the natural world does not provide it. We try to fill spiritual longings with material things, and it doesn’t work.
That this material world doesn’t’ satisfy our spiritual longings is a real problem – some might call it the human condition. No matter how much sleep you get or don’t how much junk you eat or don’t, exercise you get or don’t, friends you have or don’t resolving won’t fix us. So what’s up with that, what kind of cruel joke is it that we naturally long for above all else isn’t naturally available.
Some think; maybe an unfortunate by product of mutation and natural selection. An animal that develops what they think is a soul in a cold chaotic indifferent universe – If that’s what you think your problem is, there is no solution. Stay alive and keep resolving. It really doesn’t make any difference.
Or maybe something else is going on. Those fleeting moments of transcendence when we really connect, really love, do something really meaningful, really find truth, really find justice that fill our hearts to bursting and we brush up against holy moments…. These are breadcrumbs on the path leading us to where we were meant to go. To whom we were made for. Our heart’s longings, like little compass needles all point in the same direction. Not pointing to true north, but to the true God. But how do we get that, even if we resolve to?
Unfortunately, the world around us seems to be spinning, ground seems to shift when we walk. Unfortunately, we quickly forget when we figure out how to move forward. Unfortunately, we are so short sighted that we can’t even see one second into the future. Unfortunately, we have no idea how to get to this True God our hearts point us towards.
To connect and unite with the transcendent being that everyone kind of agrees is out there but nobody can point to where it is or why we all seem to feel it… Humans have invented things called religions to try and get to him And at their core is somethings as deep and profound as new years resolutions.
Yeah, it’s like God’s on a mountain, and were down here because we’re broken, and to get up there, do this good stuff, don’t do this bad stuff. Yeah you know those unhealthy behaviours that are symptoms of spiritual brokenness, yeah stop doing those things, do good things instead. So, all religions kind of agree, Behaviour will be your saviour. Cough less, here’s a cigarette while you try…
And if anyone is here at church for the first time ever, they wonder what am I doing here? Isn’t this Christianity a religion of sorts? Aren’t we all in the same boat? How can we really know that God is out there, or even here for that matter? How do we know that God is even real, how do we know if he is even powerful enough to do anything? Even if there is truth how can we know for sure?
If only we had some answers, if only we could have a light to light our path. If only we knew the truth. if only the God of the mountaintop would come down to us…. So, we could know for sure…
Today we aren’t looking for answers. Today we are looking at the answer and choose to accept or ignore. We’re looking at the one who claimed to be the truth, the light, and the way. The one who claimed to come down from the mountain so we could know for sure that God is real, that God is in control, and that God is with us.
Turn with me to Isaiah 52. We are looking at the 4th servant song of the prophet Isaiah. A man who knows all too well the human difficulties we face when it comes to doubt, uncertainty and spiritual brokenness. The people of God faced the same doubts, same uncertainties, same confusion, same blindness that we face, because at the core of their hearts was a God shaped hole that they were seeking to fill with everything but Him, and we see God answer their fears, their doubts and uncertainties in his servant.
Before We look at the servant, who would show just how real, in control and with us our God truly is. We see people of God in turmoil.
52:1-4 written to a people asleep, to a people weak, to a people not splendid, a people defeated.
God’s people, in God’s place, with God’s promise… had a serous problem, their nation seemed to have a God shaped hole in it. This people of God, marked by the exodus, marked by his grace, marked by his forever promise to show the world about his great name, began to turn away from Him.
as time went on. People doubted, wondered about this invisible God they heard about, whom their ancestors trusted with everything. People went their own way, stopped trusting, stopped living like he was real. Started doing and being like the people around them. Like we said at the core of unhealthy and destructive behaviour is a spiritual problem. God didn’t’ leave his people. His people left him, and things got real bad.
See that line in v 3… sold for nothing bought for free. The kingdom of Israel was so run down it wasn’t even worth conquering, or even worth selling for scrap. Like an old desk thrown out on the curb, gets picked up by a neighbour and is back out on their curb next garbage day you don’t have to pay for that desk back. Its junk. Israel wasn’t worth anything to anyone.
And a small remnant, of believers, of faithful, of disciples who followed Isaiah were looking around I’m sure a few people wondered is God even real, is he even in control… I just don’t see it.
Their situation not hard to understand. Lot of empty churches being sold for the land they sit on. Demolished, not worth the scrap. If there’s a God shaped hole in Canada, its not because God left us, God’s people in this country pushed him away, and tried to fill his absence with material. We who believe are now a remnant, leftovers, stubborn dreamers holding onto old ways, outdated views – at least that’s what the mockers say. After all the name of God, in our country and culture is a curse word. See that in verse 6 The people of God faced the same doubts, same uncertainties, same confusion, same blindness that we face?
Then God says to these doubts in V6-7 (read) – Yeah my enemies mock my name, they have taken my people. This has happened so my people will know my name. This has happened so my people in all generations to come will know who I am – what I am capable of. so, that no matter what my people may one day face, they will know what I have done, and what I will do. This is for us guys. This is really for us. And this is real. (Read 52:13-53:3)

  1. God’s salvation and solution is Real (52:13 – 53:3)
    With all the turmoil doubt, hate God’s people faced, and we face today, God offers not an idea, not a way to behave, not a way to think but Good news for us. He says I get it, don’t worry, I sent my guy. He’s got it. The servant is offered as the solution and salvation to the people of God’s deep spiritual problems. This servant is described – God’s guy was given a description…. So God’s people could know what to look for. A real person with real qualities.
    For an individual who is: wise, lifted up, exalted, rejected by many, physically disfigured from damage, shocking / amazing to nations, and above kings. A servant born to nothing, raised above everything. A servant despised and rejected who would reveal the power of God.
    God said he would send a real servant, down into our material world so that we would know he is real. A servant who would be lifted and exalted, a real person that lots of people would know who came from complete obscurity.
    That sound like a metaphor? Sound like a each of us are kind of like this messiah? Nation? NO this is a real human being. And as far as I know history, there’s only one who fits this description. His name is Jesus of Nazareth, a nobody from nowhere. A real human being who fit this description to the letter.
    Alexander the great conquering a big chunk of the ancient world was cool, prince tutored by philosophers, with an army behind his ambition conquering a lot of land was impressive. A complete unknown, uneducated, poor as dirt, Nazarene born in a hick town in scandalous rumor, who taught a small group of people, in an area about here to Lucan, on foot for 3 years conquering hearts and minds 2020 years give him their allegiance and lives is something this material world has not seen in anyone else.
    Jesus is real and looking back we can see he really fulfilled this prophecy. Whether you agree in the interpretation of the servant you can’t deny the fact that many kings and queens have bowed down to this man Jesus, who was of Nazareth because he came from nobodies from nowhere. Queen of England now to Constantine, back then. There have been a bunch. How many nations have been shocked by Jesus? China’s struggling against the shock… so is India, so is Iran, so was Rome… one day going to colosseum watch Christians die, next week it was their national religion.
    This is Real. This has happened. This man Jesus changed reality this way. God is God of reality, not just metaphors. Not just imagination. Not just of people’s inner lives. Not just heaven, His reign and his rule are real and extend into this material world that we call real.
    Not an abstract idea, a metaphor, a symbol that teaches us about ourselves. No a real man, with real flesh, real words, real commands, and real implications. A real person and a real point of reference for us to focus on while the world around us spins and the ground around us shifts. and He didn’t claim to know the way up to God, he said he was the only way to God.
    This is Real. This has happened. And He put his money where his mouth is He went to Jerusalem believing he would be killed and resolved himself to go. He pushed all his chips on the table said “I am from the real God who is above this reality and I’ll prove it by walking in and out of this reality, by dying and coming back to life… not metaphorically, not symbolically, not in a way that teaches us about ourselves, but real flatline, brain activity really dead. Decomposition. A corpse, and then alive after it.
    He called it, told his followers, before he was killed, that he would die, be raised again just like it was written, and he did. And he called them to follow, and they did.
    and he’s calling us to follow him too. Not in an abstract way. Not in an imaginary way. Not in a symbolic way. But to really follow him. In real life, by giving him our real lives. To exalt the Real man from Nazareth above all other Lords, all other kings, all other pursuits, all other desires, all other ambitions all other hopes, above our own selves daily. Exalt the king in our lives even to the point where we can really say it’s no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.
    That takes a lot of faith – living like it’s real. To walk with his steps because we depend on him to call the shots. To serve king Jesus for Real, means you must really trust him. This is hard. Because there’s a lot around us that might rob us of our trust in God’s power or capability to solve everything outside of us, and everything inside of us that’s broken.
    Therefore our second point is so encouraging. This is great news for those who believe that God is real, but sometimes forget he is really in control. (read 53:4-12)
  2. God solution and salvation is Written. 53:4-12
    The one who wears the crown is also the one who knows the end from the beginning. He’s the man with the plan – and the power to see it through. And he followed what was written to the letter.
    Take a second to really let this soak in. What we have here are Theological categories of explanation and significance before the event took place. Explanation of an events meaning, and significance, before free acting beings played it out.
    Now imagine you own a professional basket ball team in the 80’s Portland. Your about to choose your draft pick. Young buck named Sam bowie, or this cat named Michael Jordan. You have no idea who to pick. How can you know? You go to your scout Isaiah and say hey, um what about this guy. Scout Isaiah writes you a note gives you the answer, you ignore it. Pick Sam Bowie. And the bulls pick Jordan number 3.
    Time has gone on. You find a note, written by that scout from back in 84… you moan when you remember you passed on the greatest player of the era. Read the note, it says MJ will be picked 3rd. Ok how’d he know that…?
    Note continues to Say he will be a champion, make game winning shots, he’s going to be famous. – Not only that, but he’d win mvp 11 times, and not be very good at baseball… How amazing would those accurate predictions of events be?
    How much more incredible would that note be if it then outlined the historic significance of MJ on Nike, not talks all about Air Jordan’s, starts talking about him staring in the movie space jam, starts talking about what other players like Lebron say about him. Imagine the outcomes and implications being explained before the player was even picked – wouldn’t that be crazy? We need to feel that same wonder with Isaiah description of the suffering servant because that’s what this is, the prophet Isaiah wrote it down as far before Jesus, as the dark ages are before us. This is crazy!
    Worried if God’s in control? Look at what is written. Who else could explain the meaning of historic events before they happened? Who else could describe the theological significance of how people have acted, before those people were born?
    Hebrew language has a past tense things completed uncompleted. When it comes to prophetic utterances, they write down things to come in the past tense, because when God says it will happen it’s the same as being done. If God says it, it is, history just hasn’t caught up yet.
    Look how at how incredibly detailed and profound these theological implications are to events that wouldn’t be figured out till after the life death and resurrection of Jesus.
    In this small section is expiation, substitution, justification, propitiation, the resurrection, sanctification, new Adam, adoption, perseverance and glorification. Big nerdy, specific categories taught to bible students to understand all the implications of the ministry of Jesus – it is written and when Israel was smoldering rubble – people had no idea if God was in control.
    See these categories and implications written far before the events of Jesus life.
    The servant solves our sin problem
    How is human brokenness going to be fixed? Expiation (4) God’s not ok with sin, ick, guilt, servant will take it away.
    Who’s going to pay for the crime so there’s justice? Substitution atonement (5,10). Justice will be served but the servant will be our substitute.
    What about the criminal record of the guilty? Justification (11). By the work of the servant we will be declared innocent. Not excused/ parole, innocent.
    How is that wrath going to be turned to favor? Propitiation (5). The innocent, pure shed blood of the servant’s sacrifice would turn the wrath of God to favor.
    The servant solves the sin problem by getting rid of what pushes God out of our lives. But that’s not all that’s been predicted in 700 bc. He doesn’t just get rid of our sin; he gets us to God.
    The servant saves us to the father.
    No guilty people allowed; the servant will justify. People are not righteous enough for God’s holiness? The Servant gives us in his righteousness – imputation. Payment for sin is death? Fine the servant would die for us and raise us to new life with Him – resurrection. Human race is cursed, fine servant would make a new race – new Adam, God’s people are just glorified slaves then? Servant intercedes on our behalf and gets us adopted into God’s family. How you going to get sinners holy? Servant will purify people from the inside out, making them holy – sanctification. How you going to keep them? The servant will not let his people go – perseverance, and what happens then? The servant who is enthroned above all, with all power, honor glory and majesty who all creation cries out in song worth, worthy, worthy is the Lamb who was slain. This servant who walks each step before us, and then with us in us, says come sit on my throne, come sit with me, put a crown on your head – glorification (12)
    These implications and categories would not be formally taught until the 1700’s (10). They were first written in 700 before Christ.
    Isn’t that nuts, shouldn’t we know this? Its written… if someone wrote all that stuff about Michael Jordan, before he was picked, wouldn’t we pay attention to the guy who wrote it…. Why aren’t we paying attention to this?
    Shouldn’t’ we like tell people that God came down to show us the way? Shouldn’t we find those who are trapped trying to ascend an impossible mountain that the one atop it came down to be with us, so we didn’t have to? Yeah, we should.
  3. God’s solution and salvation is Immanuel
    We all know what Immanuel means. God with us. We all know who claimed to be Immanuel. But we don’t all know Immanuel.
    We know the story from Christmas. Messenger from God tells a teenage virgin she’s going to have God’s baby, his name would be Immanuel which means God with us.
    Out of obscurity he is exalted. Out of pain he brings healing. Out of sorrow he brings joy. Out of death he brings life. The servant is the son. The servant is worthy to sit on the throne, because the servant is God.
    The one on the mountain knows we can’t climb up it.
    God knows people have a tendency towards self-destruction. Garden of Eden, and all human history seem to have that common thread.
    God knows people forget what they learn.
    God knows people do what they wish they wouldn’t.
    God knows people have spiritual longings that can’t be satisfied by anything in this world.
    God knows people can’t ascend His mountain. It’s too big, were too small. It’s too hard, were too weak. It’s too high, were too low. It’s too holy, were too wicked.
    If you’re wondering if God is here, He isn’t distant; He is close, and he is with us. He has revealed himself as real, He has written his plan and made it happen. He came, and he is with us.
    God had mercy on us. He came down. He put on skin. He talked the talk; he walked the walk. He died the death; He raised the dead. He solved and he saved.
    The solution to the human condition isn’t whether you believe in God. Even the demons believe and tremble. The solution is not to come to church, do good things, not do bad things. The solution is not to resolve yourself to agree with what God says or live how he tells us is healthy. The problem of the God shaped hole in our hearts is only solved and saved by Immanuel. God with us in us. The one who came down from the mountain is now knocking on the door of your heart – you going to let Immanuel in?
    Those of us who have put our faith in Jesus, really given him our lives, to follow him for real – albeit imperfectly, we are saved. God declared it, were just waiting for history to catch up. In the meantime, God is with us, alive inside of us. Which is also what he declared.
    Maybe you’re here today and are ready to get real with Jesus. Maybe today you’ve been reminded of what you forgot. Maybe today marks the moment you read the writings of the past and make a very wise decision to put your chips on the table. If that’s you. Go to Him, he is closer than you might think.
    We live in a spinning world, with shifting ground beneath our feat, but because of the servant who has saved and solved we stand firm. We root ourselves in Christ, we live in Christ, we have died in Christ, we have been raised with Christ, we will ascend with Christ and one day be glorified with Christ, as he places crowns on our heads and we in turn lay them at his feet as we exalt Immanuel.

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