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God’s Word for You

Isaiah 42:11-17

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, May 27, 2008

11 Let the desert and its towns raise their voices;
     let the settlements where Kedar lives rejoice.
Let the people of Sela sing for joy;
     let them shout from the mountaintops.
12 Let them give glory to the LORD
     and proclaim his praise in the islands.
13 The LORD will march out like a mighty man,
     like a warrior he will stir up his zeal;
with a shout he will raise the battle cry
     and will triumph over his enemies.

More and more unexpected people march out to praise God. The bedouins of Kedar in Arabia were known for their nomadic life and large flocks of excellent sheep and goats as well as herds of camels. The tents of Kedar were stained dark by years in the wind and the sun (Song of Solomon 1:5). The fortress of Sela in Moab towers a thousand feet above the equally secure stronghold called Petra in the rocks below on the southern end of the Dead Sea. Finally, one more reference to the “islands” is a reminder from the prophet that Gentiles from all manner of unexpected places would become worshipers of the true God and enter into fellowship with all who are washed in the blood of the Lamb. Even such exotic and barbarous people as those in the Black Forest in Germany and the blue-painted Celts in the misty islands northwest of Gaul would come to know Jesus.

And so the Lord comes, to call his people to his banner, like a warrior he shouts to believers across the folds of time.

Who is the bravest, most fearless person you can think of? This is the one the Lord compares himself to, to show us that he is willing to take on anything for our sakes. For many people, and we must admit, many men in particular, the bravest souls are those who march out at the head of armies, willing to engage in single combat if necessary, like David facing Goliath or his nephew facing the monstrous Philistine with twelve fingers and twelve toes (1 Chronicles 20:6-7).

But I have seen someone I thought even more brave. I have seen a woman writhe in the agony of childbirth, and then go back and do it again and again—and my respect for her is at least equal to, if not greater than, any warrior in battle. And the Lord uses that picture, too…

14 “For a long time I have kept silent,
     I have been quiet and held myself back.
But now, like a woman in childbirth,
     I cry out, I gasp and pant.
15 I will lay waste the mountains and hills
     and dry up all their vegetation;
I will turn rivers into islands
     and dry up the pools.

Finally, God brings us into the world of the Messiah himself. What kinds of things could the world look for in this unthinkably brave Son of God, who faced the fury of God over my sin in my place, and bore the agony of punishment in his own body? Like a watermark on a sheet of paper, the things to look for in the Christ would be things like this:

16 I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
     along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
     and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
     I will not forsake them.
17 But those who trust in idols,
     who say to images, ‘You are our gods,’
     will be turned back in utter shame. (NIV)

The physically blind would actually be given their sight, and the spiritually blind would be shown the true God, as well. The physically deaf would actually be given their hearing, and the spiritually deaf would hear the gospel of forgiveness and put their trust in the healing Savior.

Frequently in the Psalms, the odd little word “selah” pops up at the end of a line, and makes us wonder why it’s there. Although we don’t know for certain what its musical value was (if anything), we can make use of the word in this way: It almost always seems to highlight a verse in its Psalm for special consideration. It’s as if the psalm writer took a yellow highlighter and set the whole line off for us to notice.

A good example is found in Psalm 4, in which David describes God’s condemnation of idols and idolatry the same way Isaiah does in verse 17 above:

How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame?
      How long will you love delusions and seek false gods?   Selah
   Know that the LORD has set apart the godly for himself;
      the LORD will hear when I call to him. 
   In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds,
      search your hearts and be silent.                                      Selah
   Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.” (Psalm 4:2-5)

Look at the thoughts of the “selah” lines: (1) Will you love false gods? (2) Search your hearts and be silent. The word of God points us to our true Savior. Apart from God, there can only be silence. For those who have rebelled against God, even in ignorance, there must be repentance. That’s why we keep taking God’s message to the world; to all the islands in the most distant corners of the globe. The means might change, but the message will always be the same: Jesus Christ died to save sinners.

Even me.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.