GETTING THE MESSAGE/A work in us that only God can do
This time of year we are pointed to the birth of Christ. We can become so familiar with the story that we are not as moved by the wonder of it. These two passages in Isaiah can help with that. The first passage reminds us how terrible the bondage of sin is, the second how amazing the grace of God is.
In Isaiah 42:18-25, Isaiah is speaking about Israel enslaved to sin. Though Israel is the servant of God, she is blind and deaf to the glory of God (verses 18-20). The same language was used in Isaiah 42:6-7 of the Gentile nations throughout the world. Isaiah, like Paul in Romans chapters one and two, accuses Israel of being no more righteous than the pagan nations around her.
The Lord had magnified his “law,” or his revealed will to Israel (Isaiah 42:21). God’s word and his ways are glorious, but Israel rejected God for the idols of the nations. In our prosperity we are not so aware of the sinfulness of sin, so the Lord frequently uses afflictions to teach his children the evil that is in sin. But though Israel suffered (verses 22-23), she did not see the hand of God in the afflictions (verse 24).
When we think of Christ’s coming into the world, we should consider how great an evil sin is that it renders us without hope and without God unless the Son of God intervenes on our behalf. Israel was given great privileges by God. He sent prophets to them, and gave them his word and promises attached to it. Yet they turned away from the living God because of sin.
If a bondage were imposed upon you by an external force which you could not resist, there would be no guilt necessarily implied in your condition. Bondage to sin is truly bondage, yet it is not involuntary; men are bound by the sinful desires of their heart. Isaiah 42:25 shows the sad condition of being under the power of sin. The punishment is great, but it does not humble the Israelites.
Satanic temptations assist in this bondage, but Satan can only allure, he cannot compel. Ungodly influences of other men, corrupt culture, and other things in a fallen world cooperate with this bondage, but man is responsible for his own actions. Nothing but the sinner’s own free will causes him to disobey God and not seek the glory of God. Sin is bondage that makes our inclinations deny the glory of God.
The sinner will never deliver himself from the bondage of sin. It is analogous to the man born blind in John chapter 9. He was delivered from the bondage of blindness by Christ and would not deny him after that. He took no credit for his healing because he knew it was the work of the Lord. The chapter especially shows us the spiritual blindness and bondage of the Jewish leaders.
We need a work in us that only God can do. And if you truly belong to Christ, it is not you but grace that made you to see, and to God you owe all glory. In Isaiah 43:1-7 you are given reasons to glorify God.
First, God made you new spiritually. He gave you new life. In Isaiah 43:1,”Israel” refers to all those who receive the covenant blessings of God. The blessings listed by Isaiah anticipate the work of Christ. The Lord redeemed you. He called you by name, took away your sins, and says “you are mine.”
Second, he, the Lord God Almighty, will accompany you through the rest of your journey in this world (Isaiah 42:2). He does not promise his redeemed people they will not go through severe trials (represented here by floods and fire), but he does promise he will be with you through them. That is why they can do you no real harm. If God is for you, who or what can be against you?
In verses 3 and 4 you see how much the Lord values you. There is no price that is too high for the Lord to pay for your ransom (verse 3). You are precious in his sight (verse 4). The Lord says, “I love you.” It’s a great comfort to the Christian to know God the Father loves you with is the same love he loves the Son of God. These are the unsearchable riches of Christ that he won for his people.
Verses 5-7 teach us that the Lord will call men and women from all corners of the world to salvation and life with him. Christ came into the world for these ends. When you compare the benefits of salvation with the bondage of sin, you are now prepared to sing praises to God over Christ’s birth.