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God’s Healing Touch
Watch at: https://youtu.be/9XDXked3KvY
Unfortunately, I have been hearing a lot today about how Christians are beginning to abandon their faith in higher numbers than we have seen before, at least in my lifetime and since I’ve been a Christian over the last 40 years. And the main reason is because they are unable to connect what is happening in this world to their own concept of God. And it’s disheartening to say the least. And so I’d like to address this by looking at the true nature and character of God.
In the passage we’ll be looking at, the prophet Isaiah is speaking to the Jews who are in Babylonian captivity and are seeking justice for the tremendous wrongs done to them by their captors.
They knew eventually God would deliver them, but what about the injustice they’ve had to endure over all these years. The idols they’ve fashioned for themselves and that they have been praying to and hoping would intervene are worthless, and God makes sure to let them know that in the preceding chapter. But living amongst the Gentiles, and not following God’s word, their memories as to the nature and character of God are beginning to fade.
And understanding that gives us an understanding of what is happening today.
Now I’ve seen some people, and heard of even more, who have grown up in the church, or have been leaders within the church, from pastors to worship leaders, that have been lured away by sin, or have opted out because they believe God has let them down. In other words, God is not who they thought He should be, because He is not acting like the God they want.
This is the way the Israelites felt there in Babylon. Why hasn’t God come to their rescue? Why hasn’t He delivered them? Why has He allowed such injustice to prevail? And so they were questioning who God is, and here Isaiah reminds them about the identity and character of God.
Who is this God, the God of the Israelites, and the Creator King of the Universe?
• Well, let me begin where Isaiah begins, and that is He is the One who will send His righteous servant, the Messiah, to deal directly with the issue of humanity’s sin, which is the root cause of all the injustice in the world
• And, He is none other than the One who will not break a reed that has been bent to the point of breaking.
• He’s is also the One who will not snuff out a candle whose wick is now just a nub and can barely hold a flame.
• In other words, He is the God who will faithfully bring forth justice the right way, His way, the true way, the way that will redeem, and not annihilate.
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench; He will bring forth justice for truth. He will not fail nor be discouraged, till He has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands shall wait for His law.” Thus says God the Lord, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it: “I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness, and will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house. I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images. Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:1-9 NKJV)
Our text clearly speaks of the coming Messiah who will come, not as a conquering hero, but as God’s righteous servant doing God’s bidding, and not His own. Remember Jesus’s prayer in the Garden where He said, “Not My will, but Your will be done,” speaking to the Father. And so He won’t be arrogant or proud, but with great humility He’ll be a Servant to God’s people.
We see this when Matthew used this passage to describe Jesus by saying that this passage from Isaiah has now been fulfilled.
“Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed Him, and He healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who He was. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah.” (Matthew 12:15-17 NKJV)
And then Matthew quotes Isaiah 42, starting with verse one saying,
“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.” (Matthew 12:18 NKJV)
But this message was not just for Isaiah’s time, nor for the time Jesus walked this earth, but it’s for our day as well, and it’s a message that is desperately needed for a nation wondering what’s next, and for the church that has been beat down by politics and government.
And it’s because of this that most us have a quarrel with God. Now, when I say a quarrel I don’t mean that we’re continually angry with God. Well, some of us might be mad or upset at times when we don’t understand what’s happening and why we’re not seeing God’s promises when we believe we need them most. But if I could, I believe that most of us are just puzzled and perplexed by what God chooses to do and how God chooses to do it.
We think, “If God loves us so much, why does He allow these things to continue? Why should we have to live in a world riddled with crime, poverty, corruption, and disease when God has the power to stop it?”
I remember attending a memorial service where the pastor openly questioned why would God allow a particular disease to even exist.
In other words, if we were God, then things would be different.
One girl wrote, “Dear God, did you mean for giraffes to look that way; or was that an accident?”
Already, a kind of quarrel with God was beginning in her imagination as to His ways. She wouldn’t have made giraffes the way God made them, and if truth were known, neither would any of us, well maybe Picasso.
Now before we look at this next passage from the Scriptures where God answers our misperceptions and misconceptions about who He is, that is, His nature and character, we in all honesty don’t like what we hear, because God let’s us know that we’ll never fully know His ways or thoughts, and this is why such quarrels exist in our minds and in our hearts.
And so, God answers these thoughts we have about Him saying, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55: 8-9 NKJV)
Take for instance the Christmas story. Who thought a stable would be the best place for the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords to be born? And then laying the Him in a feeding trough for animals with regurgitated food and saliva all over the place, not to mention the stench? And why send a celestial choir to a couple of no name shepherds? No one would believe what they said, because they were the religious and social outcasts of the Jewish society. So in our mind this is not the way to run the birth of the King of Kings.
Instead, Jesus should have come with power and glory for the entire world to see. Born in a palace with the whole world as witnesses with the celestial choir singing of His glory for everyone to hear. That’s the way we would have done it.
But God’s ways are not our own. Instead, God sent Him as His righteous Servant so that He could identify with all of humanity and to be that servant who would take our place upon the cross, to die in our place for our sins, taking upon Himself our sins so that our relationship with God could be restored.
Or take the resurrection. When God raised Jesus from the dead, when Jesus stepped out of the tomb shaking off death’s power, but only appeared to his little group of disciples. That’s no way to run a resurrection.
What we would have done is have Jesus raised from the dead with a thunderous clap of lightning. And then Jesus coming into the temple showing himself to the Romans and the Jewish authorities saying, “Feel like going another round.” That’s the way we would have done it.
But God’s ways are not our own.
And it’s the same with our own lives. I mean if we were in charge we’d have done it differently. So, it’s safe to say that most of us have a quarrel with God, with the things God chooses to do and the way He chooses to do them. Or with the fact that God allows suffering in the world and seemingly does nothing about it.
But God’s ways are not our ways. God has a separate agenda, quite apart from our desires and preferences. Therefore, most of our answers and concepts about God and His ways are quite inadequate.
And so, it’s in these quarrels with God that we begin to redefine who God is. In other words: if God doesn’t act like the kind of God we want, we’ll just fashion a new God who will.
You see what happens is that we produce a sort of revised standard version of God that expresses the way we want God to be, and this is at the core of idolatry, and one of the principal reasons God’s word keeps coming to us in disturbing ways is to destroy our idols and knock down the false images of God we’ve created. And the Bible does so with the truth of the way God really is.
That’s the purpose of this passage. It’s to renew our understanding of the truth about God, and the way God really is in the world, that is, the main purpose or goal of God.
God’s Main Goal: To Repair Creation
God’s main purpose or goal is to make all things new – to restore humanity and everything else back to the way He intended when He created it in the first place, that which we messed up because we thought that we knew more than God. And that was exactly what Satan tempted Eve with in the Garden of Eden, that was that she could be just like God.
And while this whole “Repair Creation” sounds good, we have a hard time with it because of how much we have invested in the old broken down and decayed creation, that is, in the way things are now, instead of the way God wants them to be.
That’s why Herod and the religious leaders shook in fear when they heard the Messiah had been born. If that baby were the real king, then they would lose their prestige and positions of power. That’s why they tried to destroy the Messiah, that’s why they tried to kill Him.
It was through this baby, the Messiah Jesus that God was repairing His creation, and the power brokers, the brokers of the status quo, the religious leaders of that day, as well as the power brokers and religious leaders of our own day shake with fear when it comes to Jesus, and therefore they try to do everything in their power to destroy Him, and His church.
God’s desire, however, was to repair His creation through that baby born in a manger and who climbed upon the cross for the sins of the world.
What we have to understand is that sin is an attack on creation, and it’s God’s will to address human sin by mending the damage we have done to ourselves and to His creation.
We’ve abused the image and likeness of God, and what God had originally created for us to be.
Look at all of the destruction human beings have wreaked upon itself, which is nothing less than an attack upon creation and the image God created humanity in. And if you think about it, the last time we see such an abuse and sin perpetrated, God sent a flood and started all over.
Whatever we wish God would do and be, God’s will is to repair creation, and God will not rest until justice, final justice, His justice has been established.
God’s Method: To Bring Justice
And so, God’s method is to bring about His justice, and my emphasis on His justice rather than our own.
Our one of our main arguments with God isn’t with the truth that He is going to establish justice; rather it’s when. If God is going to establish justice, why doesn’t He send fire from heaven and do it now?
This was Jame’s and John’s reasoning. James and John were two of Jesus’ disciples. When Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem He told a village in Samaria that He was coming, but they refused Him entry. At this, James and John wanted justice done upon that village. They said, “Lord, do you want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them.”
To which Jesus replied, “You don’t know what manner of spirit you are of.” (Luke 9:51-55 NKJV)
And with Jesus’s response, our argument with God expands as to not if He will bring justice, but why doesn’t He do is our way. And so, while we want a justice now, we want it our way.
But through the prophet Isaiah we see another side of God. What we are given is not so much a mighty conqueror, which God is and will be when Jesus returns to set up His millennium reign, but until that time what we see in Jesus is a gentle and compassionate God.
Look again at what Isaiah says about the Messiah who was to come. “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice.” (Isaiah 42:3 NIV)
Notice how God’s justice is connected to His love and compassion.
The New Living Translations says, “He will not crush those who are weak or quench the smallest hope. He will bring full justice to all who have been wronged.” (Isaiah 42:3 NLT)
And while we love the fact that God is kind and compassionate, something inside of us wants to see justice done our way where suffering and evil ends and are consumed.
I mean, why even have a bruised or bent reed to begin with, or why have a candle that is about ready to go out? Why have those who are weak and powerless? Why?
But, while I want justice done, what God wants to do is to restore hurt and broken lives. And so, while we want justice, God wants restoration. And so, what I have to remember that God’s ways are not my own, but as I think about it I’m glad of that, because while I think it’s justice for me and punishment for others, I often times I forget I’m the biggest sinner out there, therefore I need to be thankful for God’s patience, kindness, mercy, grace, and forgiveness.
Think about it, if Jesus established justice today, it would mean the end of the world, which means that our unsaved loved ones will never have another chance to get right with God.
So I’m thankful that God gives us plenty of time to reconsider the way we’ve been living. And so, instead of being angry or upset, we need to be thankful that God is waiting with open arms for the world and us to come back to Him!
And so here’s the ultimate question that humanity is faced with. Are they willing to gamble with eternity? Now, living in Las Vegas my entire life, I know that the odds are never in our favor. And so, are we willing to blow off giving our life to Christ because we think there’s plenty of time left? But the reality is that no one knows just how long we have, or when that time is going to be.
In verses two and three we see the compassion of God’s servant.
“He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets.” In other words, he’s not going to rant and rave. He’s not going to go around saying, “turn or burn.”
So what is Jesus doing? Well for one thing he isn’t breaking bruised reeds, nor is He snuffing out smoldering wicks.
But what does that mean?
“A bruised reed He will not break.” (Isaiah 42:3a NKJV)
Reeds were tall pieces of grass that grew by the riverbanks. People would collect the good pieces making walking canes, sandals, and baskets. But they’d take the bruised, cracked, and broken reeds and throw them away. They had no use for them. There were thousands of others, and besides, bruised and cracked reeds weren’t good for anything.
These bruised reeds are people who’ve been bruised by life. Bruised by the inconsiderate things other people have said or done. Bruised reeds are those who are weak and struggle every day. In other words, they are people like you and me.
But no matter how bruised we may feel, or how weak and discouraged we may be God says, “I love you. There’s no such thing as a throwaway or disposable person. I will heal and strengthen you and pour out my love upon you until my final judgment comes. I will never give up on you.”
Jesus will not walk away nor abandon us. He will not throw us away like yesterday’s news. He will always minister His love and His compassion.
If you look at the second half of verse three, we see another picture of our Lord’s compassion:
“And smoking flax He will not quench.” (Isaiah 42:3b NKJV)
The Hebrew homes didn’t have electric lights. They had to light their homes with oil lamps.
Most lamps had an open top. The bowls were filled with oil and contained a wick. As long as the wick would stay moist with the oil, it’d burn. But when the oil got low, the wick would smolder and give off smoke. The wick was then extinguished and thrown away.
Some of us are like smoldering wicks. We used to be shining lights for the Lord. But now we’re spiritually burned out. The stress of life has taken its toll. We no longer pray or read the Bible like we used to. That flaming desire we once had for God is down to just a flicker.
Many of us then feel just like that bruised reed or smoldering wick.
The leper was a bruised reed and smoldering wick. He was diseased, cast off and shunned by society, and destined to a slow terrible death. But Jesus came and touched him, and his life was forever changed.
The demon-possessed man was a bruised reed and smoldering wick. He was living among the tombstones, naked, tormented, and cast out by society. But Jesus came and touched him, and his life was forever changed.
The woman caught in adultery was a bruised reed and smoldering wick. She was about to be cast away by society, stoned to death for her sin, but Jesus came and touched her, and her life was forever changed.
The woman with the flow of blood was a bruised reed and smoldering wick. She was in pain, weak, weary, and an outcast from society. And she reached out and touched Jesus, and her life was forever changed.
Jesus is the answer for the bruised reeds and the smoldering wicks. He is the answer for those who are bruised, broken, hurting, and cast aside by society. In other words, Jesus is the answer for all of our lives.
The message is that God’s servant, Jesus Christ, is our one and only source for justice and compassion. Come to Him! We need a coming to Jesus moment. Give Him a chance to heal the bruises in your life. Allow Him to rekindle the joy you used to have? Allow Him to give you that assurance of a life worth living.
“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.” (Psalm 147:3 NKJV)
And Jesus came to heal the greatest hurt of all, the hurt of being separated from God.
“A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.” (Isaiah 42:3 NIV) He heals our broken hearts and binds up our wounds (Psalm 147:3)
That is the true nature and character of God, who brings forth justice with compassion His way, which is always the right way.
Wednesday Evening Bible Study