Psalm 89:31–38; Isaiah 51:17–53:12; Colossians 1:15–27

Psalm 89:31–38: The psalmist, still speaking in God’s voice, warns, “If his [David’s] sons forsake My teaching/ and do not go in My law,” (31) there will been appropriate punishment for their sins: “I will requite their crime with the rod,/ and with plagues, their wrongdoing.” (32)

This seems like the standard deuteronomic deal: sin and you’ll be punished. But then, immediately following this verse we read, “Yet my steadfast kindness I will not revoke for him,/ and I will not betray My faithfulness.” (34) David, being God’s anointed, gets special godly consideration: “I will not profane My pact…One thing I have sworn by My holiness–/that David I will not deceive.” (35,36)

God’s remarkable promise follows: “His [David’s] seed shall be forever–/ and his throne like the sun before Me,…” (38) In other words, no matter how badly David’s successors sin and no matter if they abandon God–and we know they excelled at both these–because of God’s particular love for ever-faithful David, God will remain faithful to the house of David. As Christians, of course, we see how this turned out–and why Jesus, being David’s heir, is the tangible sign of God’s unrelenting kindness and faithfulness promised here in these verses.

Isaiah 51:17–53:12: God promises to end Judah’s woes: “See, I have taken from your hand the cup of staggering;/you shall drink no more from the bowl of my wrath.” (51:22) And a new day will dawn in Jerusalem, again becoming Israel’s exclusive domain: “O Jerusalem, the holy city;/ for the uncircumcised and the unclean/ shall enter you no more.” (52:1)

Indeed, Isaiah tells us”
   “How beautiful upon the mountains
       are the feet of the messenger who announces peace,
   who brings good news,
       who announces salvation,
       who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.
   for the Lord has comforted his people,
       he has redeemed Jerusalem.‘” (52:7, 9)

Not only the restoration of Jerusalem, the New Jerusalem, but the promise of God’s security:    “and you shall not go in flight;
   for the Lord will go before you,
       and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” (52:12)

So, who will redeem Israel? We now arrive at the most famous verses in Isaiah: those describing the Suffering Servant.

First, we know the Servant is from God: “See, my servant shall prosper;/ he shall be exalted and lifted up,/ and shall be very high.” (52:13) And he will not be beautiful: “—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,” (52:14) Above all, “He was despised and rejected by others;/ a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;” (53:3)

And in the most intensely Christological verses in the OT, he has come to atone for our sins: “Surely he has borne our infirmities/ and carried our diseases; ” But we think he’s been rejected by God: “yet we accounted him stricken,/ struck down by God, and afflicted.” (53:4) 

The Suffering Servant is the unexpected sacrifice for our very own sins:
   “But he was wounded for our transgressions,
       crushed for our iniquities;
   upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
       and by his bruises we are healed.
   6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
       we have all turned to our own way,
   and the Lord has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.” (53:5, 6)

It is impossible to read these verses and not realize the immensity of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. That he was,
   “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
       and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
       so he did not open his mouth.” (53;7)

What I have not seen before in these verses that seem to so accurately depict Jesus’ death, is that we see his resurrection as well:
    “he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
   through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
   Out of his anguish he shall see light;
   he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.” (53:10b, 11a)

Jesus “bore the sin of many,/ and made intercession for the transgressors.” (53:12). Would that I can realize the magnificence and generosity of that act. Of course, to do that I must also realize the magnitude of my sins. And that is more difficult to do–especially surrounded by a culture that basically rejects the concept of personal sin and believes that somehow we are all victims rather than sinners.

Colossians 1:15–27: As in Philippians 2, Paul appears to be quoting an ancient hymn that summarizes the core realities of Jesus Christ beginning with his origins: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (15) to his power as joint Creator with God: “in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible” (16), as well as his consequent preeminence as the center of creation: “He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (17) That “all things hold together” in Christ is a tremendous promise in a world that seems to be flying apart. But like the sun at the center of the solar system, it stands firm while all things spin around it.

We can see the seeds of the Nicene Creed here:  “He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything.” (18) and we see two aspects of the Trinity: “God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross.” (20) That’s as succinct a statement of the New Covenant as we can encounter anywhere.

Paul is now on the other side of Isaiah, as we see the outcome of what Jesus the Suffering Servant has done for us. We are cleansed and can stand before God as we rejoice in Paul’s immortal words: “he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him” (21)

That Jesus is who Isaiah predicted is the answer to the great mystery: “the mystery that has been hidden throughout the ages and generations but has now been revealed to his saints.” And best of all for the world, the mystery is revealed to all the world: “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (27) We could reflect long on the implications of “hope of glory,” but that hope is far greater than anything words could describe.

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