Greeting: Grace and peace are yours from Him who is and who was and who is to come.
Text: 1) Listen to me, you islands; here this, you distant nations: Before I was born, the Lord called Me; from My birth He has made mention of My name. 2) He has made My mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of His hand He hid Me; He made Me into a polished arrows and concealed Me in His quiver. 3) He said to Me, “You are My Servant,
Introduction: The pastor wanted to make a point. Instead he made two. While discussing the relationship between fact and faith, he said, “That you are sitting before me in this church is a fact. That I am standing here and speaking from this pulpit is a fact. But it is only faith that you are listening.” The pastor not only drew a good distinction between fact and faith. He pointed out that we cannot make assumptions that people are always listening to what is being said. Quite early in life, we develop the ability to listen selectively – that is to pay attention to or to disregard whatever sounds and voices we choose. For example, the child who always had responded positively to a parent’s voice one day decides that he/she will ignore that voice and see what happens. Selective listening can be good or bad. Some voices should be tuned out and disregarded. Other voices should be heard and heeded. Today, I urge you to choose to listen very carefully to the words Isaiah records for us in the second of his four Servant Songs. I encourage this because Isaiah reveals important information about the most important voice we could possible hear, the voice of the Jesus Christ, the one Man who ultimately determines the destiny of each one of us.
1. I Was Selected To Serve
In Isaiah 49, the prophet records the Messiah speaking centuries before He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He speaks to us in the 1st person. The first thing He tells us is: “I was selected to serve.” Isaiah writes: “Before I was born the Lord called Me; from My birth He has made mention of My name. He said to Me, “You are My Servant,
Here the Messiah tells us: From eternity God chose Me to perform a great mission on your behalf. God spoke about Me and My mission long before I was born. God called Me to be His special Servant. He chose Me to be the Servant that the Old Testament people of Israel and all other people should have been, but never were. He selected Me to His blameless, loving, sinless, obedient, flawless, perfect Child. Through My holy life, I would reveal God’s glory and bring Him honor.
2. I Was Strengthened To Succeed
Not only was I selected to serve, I was also strengthened to succeed in My mission. Listen to what Isaiah records of My words: “But I said, I have labored to no purpose, I have spent My strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due Me is in the Lord’s hand, and My reward is with My God . . and My God has been My strength.”
In these words, Jesus tells us: “There was a tremendous earthly challenge to My work. Some people face tremendous pressures in their jobs. Much is expected of them. There is little room for error. They put their lives on the line regularly. I was called to be the Messiah and rescue a world of wayward people. There is no other job so demanding and so stressful. No one ever faced or ever will face the pressure I faced. Although I was the Son of God who perfectly trusts and obeys the Father, I was also a true human being, a Man who was lowly and weak, who feared that He was insufficient for the task and who trembled in agony at the thought of dying on the cross. In this condition, I faced the most severe temptations and the most bitter pains anyone ever had to face. The cost of being God’s saving Servant was so high and so hard on Me that I often cried out in distress and broke out in agonizing tears. I faced depths of sorrow and suffering that are unimaginable and inexpressible.
But in my great weakness, God came to Me and strengthened Me. He would not let His purposes be thwarted. Although He required me to take on this daunting task all alone, although He decreed that I be forsaken and damned to the pains of hell by Him, yet He loved and supported Me. He answered My prayers. He gave Me proof of His love. He sent angels to strengthen Me. He sent Old Testament prophets from heaven to assure Me of the worth of My efforts. In many different ways, God strengthened Me to succeed.
3. I Was Sent To Save
Let Me summarize My success with this final phrase: “I was sent to save.” Listen to what Isaiah writes of My Father’s description of My mission: “It is too small a thing for You to be My Servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of
God sent me to save. I was sent to save
Through My perfect life and atoning death, I was the sufficient ransom that paid for all the sins of all the Jewish people.
But I was also given a larger, expanded role to play. I was also sent to save everyone else. I was sent to save the Gentiles, the people of the non-Jewish nations. I was sent to be the Light on those living in spiritual darkness, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. By My holy living and sin-bearing death, I earned a verdict of innocence for all sinners in God’s court and am the Source of salvation for anyone and everyone.
4. I Determine Your Destiny
Because Jesus was selected to serve, strengthened to succeed and sent to save, Jesus has become the Man, the God-Man, who determines our destinies in the fullest sense of that word. Isaiah records Him as saying: “My mouth is like a sharpened sword.” His Word is powerful and determines who will be saved and who will be damned.
Listen to Jesus speak in the New Testament: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Whoever believe in the Son is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” The Father loves the Son and has placed everything in His hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on Him.”
Jesus determines your destiny. He will be for you either a gracious Savior or a condemning Judge. He will assign you either a place of bliss in heaven or a place of horror in hell. He will shower you with His comforting mercy or He will shower you with His tormenting wrath. It is essential that we recognize the all important role Jesus has in our lives and futures.
The truth should lead us to carefully listen and firmly believe what Jesus has to say to us. A big mistake people often make is to ignore the voice of those who determine their destiny. In a lesser way than Jesus, the people God has placed in authority around us help shape our destiny – people such as our parents, teachers, government leaders, church leaders. When those in authority act according to their God-intended role, they help determine a favorable destiny for people. To ignore the voices of those who determine our destiny invites tragedy. We could tell story after story about people who didn’t take the helpful instruction they received at home, at church, at school or by the civil authorities and it cost them dearly. The greatest tragedy is to ignore the greatest voice, the voice of Jesus, in the things He has to say to us.
Jesus has a message of great importance for us and we must hear Him. Respect His Word as the spiritual authority for your faith and life. Listen to Jesus for what you should believe and how you should conduct your life. Don’t get your guidance from a false authority. Don’t get it from the empty trend setters in society, the corrupted voices of pop culture or even from your own fallible thoughts. They don’t have the ultimate ability to save or deliver you. Jesus does. Listen to Him. It is said that the young are tempted to resist authority, busy adults are tempted to ignore authority and that senior adults are tempted to think they have outgrown authority. Jesus says: “My sheep hear My voice and they follow Me.” Are we listening to His voice? Are we reading the Bible regularly at home? Are we studying it with fellow believers in a group or class? His voice is too important not to hear.
Jesus determines our individual destinies. He also determines all of our destinies. That truth should also lead us to be very active in urging others to listen to Jesus’ words. Many people around us are listening to the wrong voices, the ones that will mislead and harm them spiritually. They may be caught up in a secular society which constantly presses the message: “God is a side show. He has nothing valuable to offer. Ignore Him.” They may be under the influence of false prophets peddling false Saviors. Help them. Look for your opportunity. Tell them: “It’s not wise to ignore the Person who determines your destiny. Let me tell you about Him. Let me show you how you can learn more about Him.” Someone did this for you. You can do it for someone else. Jesus is the One who determines our destinies. He is the God-selected, God-strengthened, God-sent Savior. Let us hear Him and urge others to hear Him also. Amen.