1 Peter 1:22-2:3 Desire the Word of the Lord

1 Peter 1:22-2:3            Desire the Word of the Lord            WC McCarter

Last week, in 1 Peter 1:13-21, we were told to be holy and fearful because we have been purchased by God with the precious blood of Jesus Christ. We saw that Christ is eternal, but even before the foundation of the world the Triune God had decreed that God the Son would put on flesh in order to live, die, and be raised again in order to pay for the sins of humanity. He was manifest in these last times for us. Through Jesus Christ our faith and hope are in God. Today, we will complete that famous Christian triad by adding brotherly love.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Love One Another (22)
The command in verse 22, which comes in the second half of the verse, is for Christians to continue to love one another. This love is given two qualifications: it to be fervent and from a pure heart. Fervent, pure-hearted love is deep, stable, reliable, and constant. Christians are to be committed to one another.

The command is to love one another deeply and from a pure heart. The basis of the command comes in the first half of verse 22: you have purified your hearts. While Peter has already acknowledged that the end of our faith is the salvation of our souls, he now says that the beginning of our faith was the purification of our souls. You have had an active part in your regeneration, but it is a completely responsive role that you have played. You have simply obeyed the truth. The truth must refer to what the Christians first heard from Gospel preachers. They had heard the truth of the Gospel of Christ and obeyed it. Remember, Jesus said that He is the Truth. They heard of the Christmas story, His life and ministry, and His death and resurrection. They responded positively to that message of Christ’s atoning work, and you have done the same. You do not earn your salvation. Christ has earned it for you. You do not work for your salvation. Christ’s work is more than enough to save you. Yet, you do obey, and, in doing so, you purify your souls. Notice that even your obeying is not totally on your own. It is through the Spirit. (The NIV does not have this phrase because some early manuscripts do not have the words). Yet, we all know that the Holy Spirit has an active part in the purification of our souls. He does a great work in you that motivates your obedience to the truth. This is the beginning of the Christian life, the new birth. The purity of your souls is also seen in the sincere love you show for your brothers and sisters in Christ. The fruit of a purified soul is the willingness to love others.

Exhortation: Peter commends the Christians for their love of one another and instructs them to continue to love one another deeply and pure-heartedly. The application for our lives is the same. If you have loved one another, you have done well. Now, love one another that much more fervently and purely.

New Birth by the Word (23-25)
For the second time in the first chapter, Peter points us back to our conversion (v3 “begotten us again to a living hope”). He points us to the time when we committed our lives to Christ, when we were born again. He teaches here that the new birth is by means of the word of God. So, we are not born again by any natural means (corruptible seed). Do you remember when Nicodemus visited Jesus at night and talked about the new birth? He could not understand Jesus and asked in John 3, “How am I to be born again when I am old? Am I to climb into my mother’s womb to be born again?” On that occasion, Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” That is what Peter is teaching here. We are not born again through corruptible seed (i.e. human seed) but through incorruptible seed (i.e. the word of God). Of course, the word is going to be put on full display in the next few verses, but we are given two descriptions of the word here: the word lives (active, powerful, and provides life) and abides (constant and enduring). This is a further elaboration to the statement that the seed of the word is incorruptible.

The connection between verses 22 and 23 is clear: you should love one another because you have been born again. The power to fulfill the love command comes in the new birth. It comes by the power of God at work in you.

The OT quote in verses 24-25 comes from Isaiah 40:6-8. We are told twice in this paragraph that we are like grass. Just as grass withers and flowers fade, so, too, are all people. The fact that grass is short-lived serves as a great illustration. Like grass, we are here one day and gone the next. We do not live forever. We are not dependent upon ourselves. God is the giver and taker of life. He alone is the everlasting God. We are physically fragile. We are also morally fragile. We are susceptible to the wiles of the devil, the fallenness of this world, and our own selfish desires. People come and go. Like grass, we spring up for a time and quickly die. Yet, the word of God stands forever. When God speaks, the matter is settled for eternity. The everlasting God speaks everlasting words.

At the end of verse 25, Peter adds a comment to the OT quote and makes clear that the Gospel is the word of God. This living and enduring word of God is the Gospel. Peter and Paul agree: the word of God is living and active; the word is the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe.

Exhortation: Put your life in proper perspective. Put the word of God in proper perspective. You will not live forever, but the Gospel word of God enables believers to be born again and live forever in a redeemed and glorified state.

Growth by the Word (1-3)
Based on what has just been said about the word of God, Peter now makes a summarizing and exhorting statement. Because of our new birth by the word of God, we must lay aside (rid yourself) all sorts of sinful thoughts and behaviors. These things destroy love for one another.

Definitions: malice (ill-will, desire to do harm to another); deceit (entrapment, fraud, deviousness); hypocrisy (pretentious, fake); envy (resentful, spiteful); and evil speaking (backbiting, slander, defamation). There is no room for these things in the Christian life. Those who have been born again actively resist and rid themselves of these things in order to love their brothers and sisters fervently and pure-heartedly. This is what the believer does after the new birth. This is sanctification, Christian growth toward maturity.

Peter taught just a moment ago that new birth was through the word of God, and now he teaches that continued Christian growth is through the word of God. You continue the Christian life the same way you start. You finish the same way you start, by faith and by the word of God. You continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, not moved away from the gospel which you first heard. Peter uses a baby as an illustration. Just as a baby craves the milk that will make it grow, so, too, should Christians crave the pure milk of the word which will make them grow. What makes the baby desire the milk? When they get a little taste, then they know they need more. It is satisfying, comforting, filling, and nutritious.

Exhortation: Desire the word of the Lord. Crave it. Long for it. This is how you will grow as a Christian. This is how you will rid yourselves of all kinds of wickedness and be holy like your Father in heaven is holy. You have tasted the Lord’s graciousness, now latch on.

I cannot think of a better message for us as we go into a new year. We want to be those who are full of God’s word, ridding ourselves of sin, and loving one another fervently and pure-heartedly. We are not like those of this world. We have been born again. We have tasted the Lord’s graciousness, and we want more. Let us, together, pursue those things which make for love, holiness, and Christian maturity. Forsake the corruptible things of this world, and chase after the incorruptible things of God.

1 Peter 1:13-21 Christ was Revealed for You

1 Peter 1:13-21   Christ was Revealed for You                     WC McCarter

Reading of the Christmas narrative from Luke 1 & 2.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Be Holy (13-16)
You have to know what the “therefore” is there for. Peter now wants to gather all of the thoughts of the first twelve verses and give a summary and exhortation. The basis of the exhortation is God’s saving work in Christ. The exhortation is to live a holy life. While God could say, Live a holy life because I say so, He actually says, Live a holy life because I have saved you.

(1) “Gird up the loins of your mind.” Tuck in all of the loose garments to run, work hard, or fight. Pull in all of the loose ends. Get your life in order. Get your mind ready for action.  (2) “Be sober.” Spiritual steadfastness. Disciplined mind. Alert mind. Stop dabbling into worldly things which lull you into spiritual slumber.  (3) “Rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” This third directive is the main imperative. Peter has been focusing all of our attention on the second advent of Christ. That is when salvation is experienced in its fullest sense. In fact, the last phrase of verse thirteen is the same as the end of verse seven, “At the revelation of Jesus Christ.” For Peter, “hope” means to trust Christ for the future (Piper).

Now, verse 14 is linked to verse 15. The exhortation becomes blunt, “Be holy.” The current result of setting your hope on Christ for the future means that you will live a holy life now. A girded and sober mind is for holiness in this life. So, he pictures believers as obedient children. Remember, we have been “begotten again,” that is, we have been born again by the power of God. We now belong to Him. We are His children. And as any good children, we should be obedient not so much out of fear but out of respect and gratitude. Verse 14 gives the opposite of holiness- conforming to former lusts and ignorance. The opposite of Christian holiness is to behave like unbelievers. It is to not experience a changed life. If you claim to be a Christian but still continue to live like you always have even before your proclamation of faith, you may want to examine yourself to see if you are really in the faith. I think there is an epidemic of people in this country that have a false assurance of salvation. If you want to know if you have really been born again, here are some tests: do you set your hope for the future on Jesus Christ, do you have a changed life? We are told to be holy because the One who called us is holy. How did he call us? He called us out of death and into life, out of darkness and into light.

Exhortation: Pursue holiness because of the second advent of Christ.

Be Fearful (17-19)
Verse 17 is conditional. “If” you call on the Father, conduct yourselves in fear. While we were commanded in the first paragraph to be holy, now we are commanded in the second paragraph to be fearful. We will talk about why we should conduct ourselves this way, but let’s first look at the description of the Father in verse 17. He is said to be the one who judges without partiality. How can one be sure that a judge passes judgment without partiality? Well, the judgment would have to be based on each one’s work. That is how God judges. There is no preferential treatment. There are no bribes. There are no biases. What a person does is the basis of his/her judgment in the eyes of God. Of course, we know that we are all found to be sinners in that case. We are all guilty, but God has sent forth His Son in order to redeem us.

Now, let’s return to the conditional statement. If you call on the Father, that is, if you claim to belong to Him, if you call out to Him for salvation, then “conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear.” If the basis of judgment is our work, then our conduct better be acceptable to God, right? Well, we can come back to that. Notice that Peter refers to the pilgrim idea once again in the phrase, “the time of your stay here.” We are just passing through. We do not belong here. We will not be here for long. But the time that we do spend here matters. It counts.

Look at verse 19: we will be judged by our work/conduct and yet one has gone before us to redeem us with His own precious blood. Now that is a great motivation for reverent fear. If I may speak personally, I want to live a holy life because I have a healthy fear of not living up to the gift that I have been given. Am I trying to earn my own salvation? Certainly not. I’m trusting in the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and yet I want to please the Lord with my life. We are not those who live in terror, but we are those who have a healthy fear.

We are “redeemed” “with the precious blood of Christ.” We have not been redeemed with corruptible things. Christ has not purchased our salvation and freedom with things like silver or gold. No, we have been redeemed by something much more precious than that. No amount of money could buy the salvation of your soul. Christ is our sacrificial lamb. Just as the priests would look at each lamb before the sacrifice to find blemishes or spots, Christ was found to have neither. He lived a sinless life so that He would be the perfect sacrifice. That is the point of Christmas. He had to come. He had to live a sinless life. He had to die.

Exhortation: Notice at the end of verse 18 that it is said that we have been redeemed from aimless conduct. You are a Christian. You have been bought at the highest price that could be paid. You have a purpose, an aim in your life. Trust the Lord for the future. Pursue holiness with all of your being. Keep a healthy fear in reverence to the Lord.

Christmas was for You (20-21)
We learn several things from the last two verses of our sermon text today. First, Christ has always existed. He is eternal. Before the foundation of the world, He was living. Before the foundation of the world, He was foreordained to purchase the redemption of mankind with His blood. Before the foundation of the world, the Triune God had decided that God the Son would put on flesh and be born of a virgin in Bethlehem at just the right time in history. Verse 20 says He was manifest in these last times. He came on the scene at the appointed time. He made a grand entrance, the veil was pulled back, He stepped in at the exact moment that the Triune God had scripted before you were born, before your parents were born, before America was formed, before the foundation of the world. Christ’s blood was shed for you. Christmas was “for you.”


1 Peter 1:8-12 The Salvation of Your Souls

1 Peter 1:8-12     The Salvation of Your Souls                      WC McCarter

Last week we began a new series in 1 Peter. I told you that I chose this book because the first chapter has the advent theme all through it. In the first sermon we saw that Peter was writing to pilgrims, that is, an apostle was writing to first century Christians. The opening lines were packed with theological significance and were filled with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We were reminded that we have been born again to a living hope because of the resurrection of Christ and to an eternal inheritance. We ended last week’s text considering the second advent of Jesus Christ, that is, when He returns in glory, and we are given our inheritance and the “not yet” portion of our salvation. Christ has come, He has accomplished, He has ascended, and He will return again one day. On that day we will no longer be pilgrims!

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Love, Faith, and Joy (8-9)
Although we have not seen Christ, we love Him. Those first century Christians in Asia Minor had never physically seen the historical Jesus of Nazareth, yet they had a profound love for Him. Just think, there were people so close to the Lord Jesus in time but are in the same category as us – having never seen Him. Of course, all Christians have great love for Christ, knowing that He first loved us by laying down His life for us.

Although we do not see Christ now, like the pilgrims who received this letter, we continue to believe. Take a look with me at John 20:29. The basis of faith is not seeing with the physical eye. We will one day see Christ in all His glory with our own two eyes, but until then our faith is in the Gospel message which we have heard and received about Him.

Although we do not see Christ now, we continue to rejoice. Our joy is (1) inexpressible and (2) full of glory.

The point of verse eight is that Christians continue to love and believe in Christ even in the midst of suffering, even though they have never seen Him. Folks want to shake their fists at God when they go through trials, but if they would only know that God put on flesh and came to suffer with us . . . in our behalf . . . in the person of Jesus Christ, they would know that God is on their side.

The end of our faith is the salvation of our souls. Why do Christians continue to love and trust Christ even through hardships? We look forward to the end of our faith. There will be a culmination, a fulfillment, and end. Do not be confused by the word “souls” as if only an immaterial part of us is saved. The world “soul” refers to the whole person. Remember Jesus saying that God can destroy both body and soul in Hell. He saves both as well.

People can be saved from many things: a fireman may save you from a burning building; a policeman may save you from a robbery; an advisor may save you from financial ruin; or a doctor may save you from a disease; but there is only One who can save your soul.

Exhortation: Rejoice in the Lord Jesus Christ, continue to love and trust Him. In due time you will receive the end of your faith.

The Prophets Preached Grace (10-11)
We have already seen that salvation is through faith in Christ. Now we see more about this salvation: (1) the prophets inquired about it, (2) the prophets searched carefully about it, and (3) the prophets prophesied it. Let’s discuss each of these three parts.

The Prophets Inquired about Salvation:
The prophets surely studied the Scriptures which had been written by those before them; they surely poured over the revelations that they had received; and surely they called out to God in prayer. They were consumed by the story of salvation for mankind.

The Prophets Searched Carefully about Salvation:
What or what manner of time was indicated. This is an emphatic statement. The prophets wanted to know when the salvation plan was going to take place. They wanted to know when the Messiah was coming on the scene. When was Christmas going to take place?

The Prophets Prophesied about Salvation:
How? By the Spirit of Christ in them.
When? Beforehand. (This has always been the plan of God).
What? Grace. Sufferings of Christ. Glories to Follow.

At the end of verse ten, we see the first time that Peter says the grace was going to be for us (he says, “To you”). Christmas is our salvation.

Exhortation: Be assured that your salvation is secure. The coming of Christ in the Christmas story was no accident. The sufferings of Christ were not by chance.

The Apostles Preached Gospel (12)
Apparently the prophets found answers to their inquiries and searches. Verse twelve gives the information: the prophets learned that they were not speaking for their own time, but for those who would hear the Gospel after Christ’s first advent. The prophets were ministering to us. Those godly men of old prophesied of the grace that would come to us, and it did come to us through the preaching of the apostles and the early Christians. How? By the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. What? The Gospel.

The last line of verse twelve is intriguing. The statement is made with no follow-up, no elaboration, not even another reference. Like the prophets of old who inquired and searched about salvation, we are told that the angels desire to look into these things as well. I heard one preacher say that the angels “stretch their spiritual necks” to see what this is all about. The angels in heaven have been a major part of the story of redemption, but they do not have the perspective of men and women. We are those who are saved. The angels do not fully understand why Christ had to come and die in this world, but you know. You know why Christ had to come – to save sinners like you and me. Maybe one day after the second coming of Christ – maybe one day we can sit down with some of those angels and explain to them our perspective.

1 Peter 1:1-7 Salvation Ready to be Revealed

1 Peter 1:1-7        Salvation Ready to be Revealed               WC McCarter

Christmas is not what the world wants to make it: commercialized, materialism, Santa Claus, etc. Christmas is about our salvation.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

From Peter to the Pilgrims (1-3)
The opening verses of Peter’s first letter are packed with theological significance. There is the standard “from” and “to” but so much more. First of all, the letter is from Peter. Many critical readers today claim that Peter did not write 1 & 2 Peter on the basis that the Greek writing is too good for a poor, Galilean fisherman. Yet, the letter states at the very beginning that it is from Peter. From the earliest of days, the church has affirmed that Peter was the author. Peter claims the title of “apostle” in the opening line. While the word could simply mean “messenger” or “sent one,” Peter uses it here in the technical sense. He was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ as an apostle of a select group for a specific purpose with special authority. We all probably know Peter from reading the Gospels. He was one of Jesus’ inner-circle; he was the leader/spokesman for the twelve disciples; he betrayed the Lord three times; he was restored by the Lord after the resurrection; and he preached the first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost. His life and ministry was marked by ups and downs, but, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he ended up as a strong apostolic leader of the early church.

After naming himself as the author, Peter then states the recipient of the letter: the pilgrims of the Dispersion. Peter refers to Christians as pilgrims, a designation he also uses in 2:11. The reason for the title is Christians do not belong to this world but are only passing through. Our citizenship is in heaven. That is why it is so sad to see so many Christians tangled up with worldly things. Our satisfaction is not ultimately found in this world. Our treasure is not in this world. Our treasure is in heaven. You know that this life does not last forever. We are only on this earth for a few decades. We are like a vapor which is here for a little while and then is gone. Life is like a blink of an eye. Let me encourage you to not waste your life. If you are older, don’t waste the time you have remaining. If you are younger, don’t waste the time that God may permit you to have. Tomorrow is no guarantee. Long years is no guarantee. Trust the Lord today. Store up treasures in heaven. Stop dabbling into the lusts of this world.

Christians were scattered all over the Roman Empire because of mission work that had been done by folks like Paul. Peter writes to Christians in five different places in the same geographical area of Asia Minor, which is modern-day Turkey. If you take a look at a map, you will find these places close together. The word “dispersion” is probably related to “pilgrims.” These Christians are not ultimately where they belong, but will soon be gathered together.

“Elect” means chosen and is often used of Israel but now refers to Christians. The election is on the basis of God’s foreknowledge. He looked into the future and knew that you would put your faith in Him. He declared in eternity past that all who put their faith in the Messiah would be chosen for salvation. Then it says, “In sanctification of the Spirit.” You are being made holy. The Holy Spirit comes into your life to put to death the deeds of the flesh. This is part of your salvation. This is part of your election. And so is obedience. As you become holy, you become obedient. Lastly, you are saved by the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ. He came into the world to save sinners, people like us, by the sprinkling of His blood (His atonement).

Peace was a common greeting and goodbye in the Jewish culture, but it had been transformed by Jesus Christ. He went to the cross to make peace between mankind (those who come to God by faith in Christ) and God the Father. Jesus, on the night that He was betrayed, said, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.” After He was crucified and raised from the dead

Our Inheritance (4-7)
Incorruptible- it can’t be destroyed, changed, or taken away.
Undefiled- holy and godly.
Does not fade away- it is not going anywhere, it is eternal.
Reserved in heaven for you- it is reserved in heaven for you. That’s why we are called pilgrims.

Verse five goes on to say that we are kept in our saved state by the power of God. We are not once saved always saved people, but we preach the assurance of salvation. “If” you continue in the faith, established and firm, not moved from the Gospel which we first believed. God’s power keeps us saved through faith. Salvation is an already not yet.

Here is the second advent- salvation will be fully revealed when Christ returns. This is something worth rejoicing over. This motivates joy like nothing else. Even in the midst of hardship, we rejoice. There is a reason for our hard days. Everybody has hard days, whether they are Christians or not. The Bible gives us some answers. There is a God-ordained reason for everything that happens in our lives. One significant reason for trials is to prove the genuineness of our faith. Those trials prove that you have your faith which is for salvation. When the wind of God’s wrath blows, you will stand because your faith has been tested and proven to be strong in the Lord. When He returns, there will be great rejoicing because that is when you will receive your full salvation, your heavenly, eternal inheritance.

John 10 Jesus is the Good Shepherd

John 10      Jesus is the Good Shepherd                      WC McCarter

On one occasion, which is recorded in John 9, Jesus hid Himself and left the temple after a major conflict with the Jewish leaders who had decided to stone Him to death. As He was leaving, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. To answer a question which His disciples had asked, Jesus said that the man had been born blind so that the works of God could be revealed in Him. Then Jesus spat on the ground and may mud with the saliva and dirt. He took the mud, put it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did what the Lord commanded and came back seeing. Of course, this stirred up quite the commotion among the people.

When the man gave his testimony of the miracle, he told the people that a man called Jesus had healed him. Well, the man was taken before the Pharisees who had previously decided to stone Jesus to death. They immediately stated that Jesus was not of God because He healed the man on a Sabbath. The Pharisees even called in the man’s parents to validate the claims that the man had been born blind and could now see. Although the Pharisees continued their attacks against Jesus, the man would not back down to his claims that Jesus was a healer and prophet. So, the Pharisees excommunicated him from the synagogue (which is to say that he was cut off from the community).

Later, when He had heard that the man had been cast out, Jesus went and found the man. It was then that the man confessed his faith in Jesus and worshiped Him. There were some Pharisees who were present when Jesus and the healed man met up again. They were not happy at all when Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” It is in this context that Jesus says what He does in chapter ten.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Stranger vs. Shepherd (1-6)
Based on the context, which I rehearsed in the introduction, the speech of chapter ten is first and foremost a criticism of the Pharisees. Yet, we can learn many things about Christ as Good Shepherd and about ourselves as sheep in the flock of God.

“Most assuredly, I say to you” is the famous “Verily, Verily, I say unto you” of the KJV. This reflects the Greek which says, “μν μν λέγω μν” (Amen, Amen). It is an emphatic statement which serves to catch the hearers’ attention. The “you” of this passage is, first and foremost, the Pharisees who are seen here as terrible shepherds of Israel. Jesus is about to contrast the Jewish leaders of His day with Himself; it is stranger vs. Shepherd.

Jesus puts the Pharisees in the camp of “strangers.” They are frauds. They pose as shepherds of the flock of God, but they are only in it for themselves. Notice all of the descriptions that Jesus uses for them through the passage:
He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door
          Climbs up another way
          Thief and robber
          The sheep will not follow a stranger
          The sheep flee from him
          The sheep do not know the voice of strangers.

On the other hand, Jesus refers to Himself in many positive ways by putting Himself in the category of true “shepherds”:
He who enters by the door
          The shepherd of the sheep
          To him the doorkeeper opens
          The sheep hear his voice
          He calls his own sheep by name
          He leads his own sheep out
          He goes before them
          The sheep follow him
          The sheep know his voice.

Verse six tells us that this was an illustration, but no one knew what the Lord was talking about. This is common, especially in the Gospel of John. Jesus often teaches in figurative ways, sometimes so that the audience can’t understand Him and sometimes the audience should understand, but they are too dull to comprehend the simple truth.

I AM the Door of the Sheep (7-10)
The next paragraph appears to be an explanation of what was said in verses one through six. The people did not understand, so the Lord continues the discussion of the sheep and the door. He is not ready to tell them bluntly the truth of their corrupt leadership, but He continues to talk figuratively. To begin this explanation the Lord says again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you” (Listen up).

At the end of verse seven we have the third of seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John. Jesus says, “I AM the door of the sheep.” We know that this is important because John records it as emphatic in the original language. It is, “γώ εμι” which simply means, “I, I am” (γώ means I, and εμι means I am). When something is repeated back-to-back in Greek it is for emphasis. To put it simply, the Lord is saying that He is uniquely and opposed to all others the one door of the sheep. This is a significant statement. First, Jesus is saying that He is divine. He is equating Himself with Yahweh. This Greek statement is equivalent to the Hebrew that God used to reveal His personal name to Moses at the burning bush. Moses asked, “Who shall I say is sending me?” The Lord responded, “Tell Pharaoh that I AM is sending you.” You see, Jesus has already said this to the Jews, and He did not mix words in John 8:58 when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Of course, Jesus says very clearly again in this tenth chapter verse 30, “I and My Father are one.” In response to that comment, the Jews were going to stone Him because they realized that He was claiming to be God (verse 33).

Second, what does it mean for Jesus to be the door? Almost all commentators will point you to this: In those days, there was a walled enclosure, or a cave, or out in the field the shepherd would form a sheepfold and the shepherd would sleep in the entryway and function as a door. He wanted to keep the sheep from getting out and discourage any wild animals from getting in. This, of course, was for the benefit of the sheep so that they would not get lost, injured, or killed. I think we can understand this simply. What does it mean to be a door or gate? The thieves and robbers went through illegitimate ways (they climbed through windows), but Jesus is the door.

Jesus says that all who come by Him are saved. He makes this a salvation metaphor. If you are going to be saved, you are going to have to go through Him. He is the legitimate entryway for salvation. This is just another way of saying what He says in many other places in the Gospels. He is exclusively the way to salvation.

What does it mean to find pasture? It means that you will be fed, you will find rest, and you will be led by the shepherd. The thief does not do that. The thieves come to kill, steal, and destroy which is language that is usually reserved for Satan himself. Jesus is veiling His criticism of the Pharisees. They are like their father, the devil. They were only looking out for themselves.

What does it mean for the shepherd to provide life? It means he is going to get them to food, water, rest, safety, and all the rest. He will care for them. Jesus is teaching at the end of verse ten that He offers life not only in this age but in the age to come. He offers eternal life.

I AM the Good Shepherd (11-16)
In the last paragraph of our sermon text today, Jesus uses another metaphor. He is no longer the Door, but now He is the Good Shepherd. What makes Him so good? He dies for the sheep. You see, this makes sense from a literal, physical perspective and of course it makes sense from a Christian perspective. Shepherds who own a flock are willing to lay down their lives for the preservation of their sheep. It is their family’s livelihood and long-term investment. While Jesus is not dependent on us, we are totally dependent on Him, and we needed Him to lay down His life for our sakes.

The Lord is the Good Shepherd because He lays down His life for the sheep. He is referring to His substitutionary atonement on the cross. The wolf of the wrath of God was coming after us, but Christ through Himself in between.

The last line refers to global missions. There are people from all over the planet who will hear the call of the Good Shepherd and come into His fold. Verse 16 still stands true and active today.

Conclusion and Christian Application
I only have two questions for you as we conclude this sermon. These two questions are simple, but they are as serious as any question that may be posed to you (if not more serious).

(1) (Look at v3) Do you hear Christ’s voice? I don’t mean audibly. I mean, do you hear His voice when you read the Scriptures? Do you hear His voice when His word is taught? Do you hear His voice in your day-to-day life and routine as He guides you by His Spirit?

(2) (Look at v4) Do you follow Christ? This second question is linked to the first. If you are a sheep that belongs to Christ, then you know His voice, and when He calls, you go running to obey His word.

(3) (Look at v14) Do you know Christ? The last question sums up them all. In order to receive the benefits of the Good Shepherd’s accomplishments, you must know Him.

Psalm 23 The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 23    The Lord is My Shepherd                                   WC McCarter

The 23rd Psalm is one of the most familiar and famous passages in all of the Bible. Of course, familiarity sometimes gets in the way of true understanding of the text, and sometimes it blinds us from seeing fresh things in the Scripture. While Psalm 23 has become mostly associated with death and funerals (I have read the chapter at several funerals myself), it is actually a song about the here-and-now. It is a declaration of trust from beginning to end.

The Lord Jesus spoke about food, water, and clothing in Matthew 6 by saying, “Therefore do not worry . . . . For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” This psalm is a reflection upon that biblical principle and a declaration of total trust in God’s provision and protection. The main message, therefore, is: there is nothing to fear when God is your Shepherd.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

The Lord is Shepherd (1)
Notice that this is “a psalm of David.” We know from the biblical narrative that David’s family kept sheep and, from a young age, David was himself a shepherd (1 Sam 16:11, 19; 17:15, 34-37; 2 Sam 7:7-8; Ps 78:70-71). We also know that David was a musician. He loved to write songs, play instruments, and sing. This is one of his most famous songs, a song of trust.

What David wants to establish in the first verse is the theme of complete trust and the shepherd image. Knowing how a shepherd views and treats his sheep, David can think of no better illustration for his relationship with God than to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” That phrase carries several implications. It not only implies how David viewed God but also how he viewed himself (as a sheep). For God to be viewed as a shepherd is not an unusual thing. In fact, this becomes a biblical theme in both the Old and New Testaments.

First of all, what was David asserting about his view of God by calling him a shepherd? (1) A shepherd was seen as a provider and protector. (2) "The image of shepherding is not always a gentle, pastoral one, and it is often a despised occupation. David pointed it out to Saul that shepherds were rough and tough characters who needed to be brave and ruthless killers which is what fitted him to take on Goliath" (Goldingay, 348). (3) We must also say that in the ancient world, the shepherd imagery was often associated with kings.

Let us consider how David viewed himself in relation to God. (1) The first action on David’s part that is stated in this psalm is to “not want.” David reflects on his relationship to God and knows that he will lack no good thing that he needs to make it through this life. (2) A sheep is dependent upon its shepherd for mostly everything: guidance, water, food, protection, and nursing of injuries.

Here is our first application: if you trust in God, you may not have everything that you desire, after all many of our desires are unhealthy, but you will not lack any good thing that you need to survive this life. God does not promise automatic prosperity because you trust Him, but He will take care of you.

The Work of the Shepherd (2-3)
Israel's Exodus from Egypt at God’s leading is an appropriate illustration for this psalm. In the Middle East, sheep usually pasture in the wilderness, but that is not an area that gets enough rain to settle a flock down in one place. The shepherd must keep his flock on the move to find more water and grass. As David’s shepherd, God is seen as providing him a place to lie down in grassy pastures. God leads David to a place where he can stay for a long time, eat his fill, lie down in safety for rest, and get up to eat again whenever he likes. “Still waters” refers to “restful waters” and, thus, is parallel to verse 2a. God leads his people to places of satisfaction and rest just like a shepherd leads his flock to grass and water where they can eat, drink, and rest.

A Second Application: Have you ever felt that there were threats all around you, but there was nothing to worry about? Have you ever felt like things were chaotic and fast-paced around you, but you were able to rest because God provided you that kind of blessing? You see, Christians are not promised to become filthy rich or perfectly healthy. What we are promised is blessings such as this one: faith-rest.

I don’t think that verse three has a meaning much different than verse two, but we may add that God’s leading His people “in the paths of righteousness” basically means that He leads us on the “right paths” that leads in the right direction. Most likely, it also means that He keeps us on the right path morally. Thus, this line refers to sanctification, that is, that life-long process to become more and more holy like our God. God wants to make you holy.

God's namesake refers to His divine attributes. He always upholds His righteous and faithful character. Remember that God revealed His personal name in the Exodus narrative. In fact, that revelation to Moses really kicked-off all of the events to follow. God fulfills the things of verses 2-3 not only to keep a good reputation but also in keeping with His reputation. He must do these things because of who He is. He is leader, provider, and protector.

Valleys, Death, and Evil (4)
There may be some questions that the Bible does not attempt to answer. For example, the Bible never answers the question of evil’s origin, neither does it answer some scientific questions. We cannot impose certain questions on texts which do not attempt to answer those questions. Yet, the Bible makes many things crystal clear. I think we see two of those clear doctrines in verse four: (1) there is such a thing as evil, and (2) believers are not immune to suffering.

Let’s take those two things separately and then give some application. First, the Bible makes crystal clear the existence of evil. There is an entire doctrine on the subject which is found throughout the Scriptures. “The valley of the shadow of death” is a famous phrase from this chapter. It is referenced often even in modern, secular culture. While the doctrines of heaven and hell are not as clear in the OT as they are in the NT, there is no doubt that the OT authors taught that those were realities and that all people will face one of those two destinations after death. Death is something that the Bible talks a lot about. It is the fate of all human beings because of our sinful rebellion.

Second, believers are not immune to evil and suffering simply because they belong to God. If you live long enough, you are going to suffer (and maybe several times over). What the Bible actually teaches is that it is through suffering that we are proven steadfast, that we are made stronger, and that we become witnesses of God to the world around us.

A Third Application: We are those who can fear no evil even in the presence of evil. We are those who can be comforted despite the existence of evil. It is our God, our Shepherd, who makes this kind of life possible. Do you remember Isaiah 40:1? It reads, “’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God.” Now look at verse four to see the reason for that comfort.

A valley or canyon is a great place to find water in the wilderness. It is also a place of danger because wild animals go there for the same reason. There would be many places for them to hide and pounce on sheep. Yet, the sheep are not afraid when walking through a dark canyon because their shepherd is courageous and tough. The Shepherd is willing to take on any threat. The “rod and staff” that comforts David is symbolic of the shepherd’s rod which was basically a club kept on his hip used to fight off attacks. The staff could be used in much the same way but was primary used to guide the flock in the direction that it should go. The shepherd would also use his staff to knock fruit out of the trees for the sheep to eat or he would use it to nudge the sheep to remind them of his presence which would calm their nerves. So, David viewed God as his protector and guide through all of life, and he found great comfort in that understanding. He had no fear because he knew his Shepherd was willing to go with him wherever he went and fight off any attack that may come.

I think of Joseph’s story toward the end of the book of Genesis. He faced evil, suffering, and death on numerous occasions yet was someone who knew his God and trusted Him despite his current circumstances. The famous line that he declares to his brothers who had betrayed him is, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He knew God was with him and was his defender. On every turn he faced threats, yet in the end survived but was greatly blessed.

The Sureness of God’s Blessings (5-6)
We now leave the pasture and turn to another scene. A table with oil and cups is now pictured as well as a house. Although one metaphor is traded for another, the doctrine does not change. Throughout the 23rd Psalm, the idea that God is the one who orchestrates and supplies all things is explicitly stated. Remember the main message: there is nothing to fear when God is your Shepherd. I think the famous phrase Praise God from whom all blessings flow is an appropriate summary of verses five and six.

There was nothing much more significant in the ancient world (and in the Middle East) than to host someone for a meal. It was a sign of hospitality, friendship, and loyalty. Oil was another important sign of hospitality. It was offered to guests for dry and cracked skin and was thought to invigorate a person. For a host to anoint a guest’s head is not some symbolic act but is a gesture which refreshes the person. So, the line could be translated, “You refresh my head with oil.”

The Lord not only gives all of the resources that we need in this life, but He also gives us mercy in our times of need. “Mercy” has been translated in a wide variety of ways such as commitment, faithfulness, love, and lovingkindness. The word “follow” in verse six is a weak translation which consistently means something stronger. That God's goodness and faithfulness chase down the psalmist is an ironic use of the word. While one might expect that his enemies may pursue him God’s goodness and faithfulness are seen as chasing him down. If the wild animals and enemies pursue us, you can be sure that good and mercy also chase us and follow with energy.

Conclusion and Christian Application
The specific historical context cannot be determined, so the application is wide open for how we can put this psalm to use in our lives today. I have given you some applications throughout the sermon, but let me leave you with one more.

Remember that a sheep is part of a flock (Ps 95:7; 100:3). So, the song refers to the congregation as a whole and also to the individual. You are part of something bigger than yourself. God wants to lead us collectively in a certain direction. He has goals and blessings that He wants us to experience together.

Isaiah 66:1-2, 14-24 The Lord Will Come with Fire

Isaiah 66:1-2, 14-24            Visions of God’s Greatness              WC McCarter
The Lord Will Come with Fire

As we conclude our time in Isaiah for now, we will take a look at the last chapter of the book which brings things full-circle and into final review.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

The Maker Looks Upon the Contrite (1-2)
The Lord begins this chapter by asserting that He does not dwell on earth. He has made heaven His dwelling place, although He is not limited in any way to space or time. Even when the Jews built a magnificent Temple, yes, God came to dwell there but only because He chose to do so. He was not limited to only occupying that small space on earth. Also, when He committed Himself to the Temple, He was not submitting Himself to something that humans had built for Him because, in fact, all of the resources that were at the disposal of those who constructed the Temple had been created by God in the beginning. The Lord does not look favorably upon people simply because they build or offer something to Him.

No, the Lord looks favorably upon those who are poor/humble and of a contrite spirit. That second phrase probably means something like, “lame in spirit.” Those who are lame in spirit are those who realize their brokenness. This is a biblical theme. Take a listen to these Scripture references: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise . . . Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God . . . God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted . . . He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

You see, God wants us to have a clear understanding of who He is and who we are in relation to Him. He is God, and we are not. He is Creator, and we are creature. He is the Helper, and we are helpless without Him. Maybe the greatest sin of mankind is the arrogant posture that we take. So many have a problem with admitting that there is a God who lays claim over their lives. So many are unwilling to humble themselves before the Creator. They refuse to admit their failures and wrongdoings. They refuse to confess their weakness. Yet, the Bible makes clear that God is looking for those who will humble themselves before Him, repent of their sins, and trust in Him (and the One He has sent, the Lord Jesus Christ). This type attitude accords with trembling at the Word of the Lord. A word of judgment, wrath, and the holiness of God should cause you to reflect deeply on yourself and your condition and tremble at His Word. Likewise, the sovereignty of God should cause us to tremble.

The Coming Judgment (14-17)
There were many detractors in those days mocking those who believed the Word of the Lord. They would say that the Lord had abandoned the Jews, that He was not going to be of any help, and that the prophets were not proclaiming the truth. Yet, there were those who trembled at the Word of the Lord (2, 5-6) that would rejoice when they saw the Lord bring about restoration. Notice the combination in verse 14 of both heart and bones. This stands as a figure for the whole person. Those who have waited on the Lord will rejoice and flourish in the Day of the Lord. The “hand of the Lord,” meaning His power, strength, and dominant rule, will be experienced by His people while those who have rejected the prophetic message will experience the Lord’s indignation/fury.

What kind of fury will this be? Look at verse 15. The Lord will come with fire. Notice that the personal name Yahweh (LORD) is used here. This fire has been called the “deadly holiness of God” (Motyer, 539). Unrighteous men cannot stand when the fiery holiness of God rages forth. Of course, chariots were earthly displays of destruction. So, the wrathful picture continues against the Lord’s enemies. May I just say at this point that the Lord’s enemies are not only those who aggressively oppose Him, but those who have also rejected Him in their hearts by unbelief.

“Fire” is almost always a symbol for judgment in the Bible. So, the Lord’s fire, chariots, whirlwind, anger, fury, and sword will all be directed at His enemies. This will leave nothing behind. All of the unbelieving will be consumed. Verse 16 makes clear that God stands over and above all of humanity as Judge. He alone is righteous, holy, and just, and He will judge in accordance with His divine attributes. When all flesh is judged, the slain of the Lord will be many. For example, all of the Yahweh-rejecting, idol worshipping people of the nations will be consumed by this fiery judgment of God.

Here is an appropriate time for me to say that many folks of our day hurl attacks at the Bible because of the strong language of judgment, wrath, and extermination. Primarily, folks point to Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. They question, how could a loving God command an Israelite army to massacre slews of people? How could God have them put to death men, women, children, and livestock? Yet, here is the thing, that is not at all different from the Flood of Noah’s day which swept away the entire human race except eight people. It is not so different from the wars that have been waged throughout human history which have been sovereignly orchestrated by almighty God. Lastly, all of these things are only a small taste, a foreshadowing of the final Judgment Day when all flesh will stand before the Lord of heaven and earth and an overwhelming number who have lived on this earth will be found guilty and cast into the lake of fire. If you are uncomfortable with the wrathful language of the Bible, which is not only in the OT but also in the NT, then you are leaning in the right direction. You shouldn’t be comfortable with it, but do not reject those passages as truthful because they serve as our warnings.

The Global Vision (18-24)
In the final section the attention turns back to the faithful, those who have been designated in this chapter as those who tremble at the Lord’s Word.

The New Jerusalem: Gal 4:25-26; Heb 12:22; and Rev 21.

Bracket: v18 “they shall come and see” and v24 “they shall go forth and look.” What is it that they will see? They will see the Lord’s glory. What is His glory? The glory of the Lord, His weight and value, is the revelation of the mystery kept for centuries – that Gentiles and Jews will be brought together into one body, the church, to make up the one people of God.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) Tremble at the Word of the Lord.

(2) Rejoice that you are redeemed of the Lord.

(3) Our global vision must continue.

Isaiah 46 I am God, and There is No Other

Isaiah 46    Visions of God’s Greatness                                 WC McCarter
I am God, and There is No Other


READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

They Could Not Deliver (1-2)
Bel and Nebo are the most famous Babylonian gods. Those titles are versions of the names for Marduk and his son, Nabu. These, of course, were fictitious gods that the Babylonians had created. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a temple for Marduk near his great palace.

The people of Judah had turned away from the Lord their God and began worshipping the idols of the foreign nations. Their rebellion is what brought about their captivity in Babylon. The Lord warned them through the prophets to repent from their wicked ways and come back to the Lord, but they did not heed those warnings. They trusted in the false gods, and, ultimately, the people were taken into captivity along with their idols.

What is the point of the first two verses? The point is exactly what we saw last week in chapter 44. Idols are useless. They cannot save. They cannot deliver anyone from their burdens but are in fact burdens themselves because they load down the carriages and the animals. The message to Judah was that if they wanted to follow their false gods, they could follow them all the way to Babylonian captivity, and that is exactly what happened.

Listen to Me, O House of Jacob (3-5)
This is the first of two times in the chapter that God says, “Listen to Me.” Here He wants to speak to the remnant of Israel. From the beginning of their existence the Lord had taken care of them. The Lord had carried along the people from their conception as a nation and promised to do so even to their old age. Like any good parent, the Lord says in essence, I made you, so I am responsible for you. I will carry you, sustain you, and deliver you.

For this reason, among many more reasons, there is no one who compares to our God. He has no equals. Even while the faithless people of Judah were carrying their idols, God was carrying them from before they were a people until the present day. He was going to send them into exile, but He would carry them back. He tells them these things even before they happen so that when it did happen they would know that He alone is God.

While the idols of the people had to be carried by animals, God had been the one to carry the people all along. The Lord wants them to see the irony in this fact. Israel never had to carry their God but had instead been upheld by Him.

It Cannot Answer Nor Save (6-7)
In verses six and seven, the Lord returns to the discussion of the uselessness of idols. Folks would buy up some gold and silver, they would weigh it out and determine what kind of god they would have the metal worker fashion. The people would bow down and worship what was previously a hunk of metal without any shape. A material that could be dug up from the ground was something to which they prostrated themselves.

Idols were something that people carried around because they could not move themselves around. Once it was taken out of a back-pack, it would be stood somewhere, and from that place it would not move. The absurdity of idols is voiced once again because people would cry out to the idols for salvation, but there would be no answer. There would be no salvation. They were lifeless, statues of human imagination.

Remember This (8-11)
In verse eight the Lord says, “Remember this” to draw the reader’s attention. The phrase “show yourselves men” has a long history of disputed meaning. It could mean “show yourselves men” or “stand firm.” It could also mean, “be ashamed” or “be alarmed.” Either way, the Lord wants His people to remember who He is. It is not so much about them, although they must admit that they were transgressors, and so are we, but it is all about God. The Lord basically says, Think back and remember all that I have done for you. At this point, the Jews could think back to God’s creative work; His promises of a remedy for the sin problem; His preserving a righteous line; His choosing and blessing Abraham who would be the father of the nation and the father of faith; His redeeming work in the Exodus; His conquering and giving to them the Promised Land; and so much more. They needed to remember things from long ago. If they would, they would realize that He is God and there is no other, that there is none like Him, there is no comparison.

What makes the Lord so unique? Well, many things declare God’s distinctiveness. For example, in verse ten we are told that God declares the end from the beginning. What idol can do that?

Another more specific example of the Lord’s matchlessness, in verse eleven, is how he raises up kings/empires for His good pleasure. We have already seen in chapter 44 that God called Cyrus by name, the king of the next world empire, Persia. The “bird of prey from the east” and the “man” here in 46:11 is Cyrus the Great. The Lord predicted and purposed his reign over the Persian Empire, and the Lord brought it about. The Lord would bring a remnant of Israel back to the Promised Land, and He would use Cyrus to accomplish that plan. Like a hawk flying high in sky and swooping down on a helpless rabbit, Cyrus and the Persian Army would come onto the world stage and quickly destroy the Babylonian Empire. He would then decree that all captives return home.

Listen to Me, You Stubborn-Hearted (12-13)
The Lord has not been shy in calling the people for what they are. He has called them weak in the sense that they needed to man up, He called them transgressors, and now He calls them stubborn-hearted and far from righteousness. What is “righteousness?” It is right-thinking. It is to be in the will of God. It is to follow His standards. Sadly, there are many Christians today who are also far from righteousness, although this is what we have been called to in Christ. But, you see, Christ died for the ungodly. He did not come to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Let us draw close to Him because He has come close to us, even becoming a man, even dying a substitutionary death on the cross.

Although the Lord is harsh in telling them the bitter truth, He is also sure to make promises that He will be their Helper. The people are far away from righteousness, but the Lord promises to bring His righteousness near to them. The point of verse 13 is that God will save them. Of course, there is no clearer time in history for verse 13 to be fulfilled than in the crucifixion of Jesus. It was then, at the time of His crucifixion, that God brought His salvation near. It was there, at Zion (Jerusalem), that God placed His salvation. That was how His glory was made known in Israel and for the whole world.

Conclusion and Christian Application
One commentator has summed up nicely the point of C46, “Isaiah claims that the evidence for the uniqueness of God . . . rests on his ability to predict novel turns of history in advance, an ability the idols and their technicians do not have. Specifically those predictions included Assyria’s all but total conquest of Israel and Judah, Assyria’s failure to capture Jerusalem, the fall of Assyria, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylon, the exile, the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, Cyrus’s proclamation of freedom and encouragement to rebuild, the return of a remnant, and the establishment of a messianic kingdom” (Oswalt, 192).

From all of the information, we can confidently say that these predictions were made long before the events so that when the events took place they served as confirmation that the God of Israel is the only true and living God.

(1) If you are trusting in anything other than the Lord, it cannot help/save you.

(2) God is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, the first and last, the author and finisher of our faith. He redeemed you in the beginning of your Christian life in the new birth, He has carried you all this time, and He will save you at the end of your life. Continue to trust Him. Put Him in His proper place as God and King of your life.

(3) Remember what God has done. God calls on the Israelites to recall the things of old. If they would, then they would remember His blessings, providential care, and saving works. You can/should do the same.

Isaiah 44 The LORD, Who Makes All Things

Isaiah 44    Visions of God’s Greatness                                 WC McCarter
          The LORD, Who Makes All Things

Today we continue our look at the greatness of God in Isaiah’s book.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Blessings Will Be Poured Out (1-5)
Now, if only the people of God will listen, they have no reason to be afraid. Judgment is coming to an end, and God is ready to pour out blessings once again. A time of restoration is coming. Even after judgment, there is a remnant of God’s people that remains, and their identity has not changed. They are stilled called Jacob and Israel. They are still God’s servant. They are still chosen. This is repeated to them twice in the first two verses. The word “Jeshurun” at the end of verse two means “Upright One.” Although they have been rebellious as a nation, the righteous remnant still belongs to God.

Verse two makes clear that the Lord: (1) Made Israel, (2) Formed Israel from the womb, (3) Will help Israel, and (4) Chose Israel. The Lord God is the one who brought Israel into existence as a people. From before the foundations of the world, God had chosen these people, and, in doing so, He became their Helper.

The Lord, through Isaiah, uses hyperbole here to make sure that the people realize that He can and will help them. Although their situation could be likened to a thirsty man or a dry desert land, God will pour out floods of blessings upon those whom He has chosen. In doing so, He will pour His Spirit on the people. Too many people today associate great wealth, or reputation, or some other selfish satisfaction with the blessings of God. God couldn’t care less about those things. In fact, the Lord would rather you have less of those things so that you would be forced to rely on Him each and every day for all things and so that He would receive all the glory for your life. The blessings of God should be associated with the presence of God Himself, the Holy Spirit. For example, your greatest concern for your children and grandchildren should not be to leave them a great financial inheritance. Your highest concern for your children should be to leave them a spiritual inheritance, that they would know the one, true, and living God and that His Spirit would dwell in them richly. That is exactly what the Lord’s promises Israel in verse three.

To whom do you belong? Whose name do you claim? One of the great Stone-Campbell emphases was/is claiming the name of Christ alone. We are Christians only but not the only Christians. We have decided to simply be known as Christians. Why? The name that we bear is the name that marks us out as chosen by Christ, saved by Christ, united with Christ, belonging to Christ, and submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Do you claim His name? If so, what does that mean? Are you striving to honor the name that you profess?

The Lord, the King of Israel (6-8)
There are many titles for God declared in this paragraph including: (1) Lord, (2) King of Israel, (3) Israel’s Redeemer, (4) Lord of Hosts, (5) First and Last, (6) God, and (7) Rock. We must preserve the uniqueness of our God. He is not simply “God” in the generic sense. Although atheism may be slightly increasing in our country, most people still believe that there is some god even if they are agnostic about that “higher power.” As Bible-believing Christians, we need to hold firm to the whole truth about God. He is not simply “God” but all of these other designations as well. We are talking about a particular God; the only true and living God, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The so-called gods of the world religions are not God. In an age of religious pluralism, we must make clear who we are talking about. For example, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. (And, by the way, not all roads lead to heaven).

The titles “Redeemer” and “King” both refer to God being responsible for all of the needs of His people. Redeemer refers to God’s next-of-kin status. He has taken it upon Himself to be responsible for Israel’s day-to-day needs. As King, He will be responsible for their protection and their overall well-being. For God to be “First and Last” means that he “does not derive his life from” anywhere else, and He is “the end, supreme, totally fulfilled” God of the universe (Motyer, 344). All things begin with Him and end with Him. History belongs to Him.

As “Lord” and “God,” He is Almighty and Sovereign. He can do all that His people need for Him to do. He can forgive, save, restore, heal, and so much more. The name “Rock” refers to something real and not imaginary; weighty and not light; changeless, stable, and reliable. Apart from God there is no saving action. Apart from God there is nothing to rest upon. There is no other God, there is no other Rock besides Him.

The Uselessness of Idols (9-20)
The absurdity of idols is now given a lengthy comment, which tends to be highly sarcastic (and rightfully so). Right up front the Lord says that idols are only images, they are useless, they profit nothing, and they bring shame to a man and his companions. There would be no other so-called gods, if people did not make them (Motyer, 345). But the people that make them have no purpose in life. They have not found the meaning of life. They are ignorant of the truth and wander aimlessly all of their days. No, Americans do not build little statues to worship, but those without Christ dabble into this-and-that all of their days looking for meaning and purpose. They want a reason to live, so they immerse themselves in work, or they distract themselves with kids/grandkids, or they buy one thing after another, or pick up one hobby after another. The list could go on and on of those things that people do to find meaning in life. Those things can be wonderful, but only if they are put in proper, godly perspective. The point of Isaiah 40 is that finding meaning only in those things absurd. Those things are useless as gods. Why would you care to gain the whole world if you are going to lose your own soul? There is only one who can give you meaning in life because He is the Maker and Giver of life. He is the one who brings genuine understanding and joy in work, kids, and hobbies. There is no shame in Christ. He justifies all those who come to Him by faith, and He will vindicate His people on Judgment Day.

Idolaters thought that they could shape something that would become supernatural from only their human strength. How can a mere metal-worker, who is only human – he grows hungry and thirsty and needs rest for his weariness – how can he create something that will be powerful? It is all absurd.

They also cut down trees for their own use. With part of the lumber they build a fire to cook some bread, with another part they cook some meat, some of the wood keeps them warm in the cold, and with the remaining part they craft themselves a god. And that is the literal language of the passage. The idolater doesn’t even choose the best of the lumber to form his idols. He only uses what is leftover, the remainder, the rest of the load. How senseless and silly are idolaters! From one tree they eat, they warm themselves, and they create a god to worship. This fact is almost as humorous as the man who worries about the possibility of his idol teeter-tottering if it is not crafted correctly!

There is no knowledge, understanding, genuine seeing, or honest consideration of the true and living God apart from God working salvation in you. The Lord must convict you of sin by the Holy Spirit if you are to be saved. The wind of the Spirit must blow your way for you to realize your desperate situation and cry out in repentance. How else do you explain the absurdity of idolatry and other human behaviors? People are in the dark. Where there is no light, there is no understanding. Where there is no understanding, foolishness and absurdity prevail in the human heart.

Verse 20 takes us back to verses 14-17 and 19 about the idols being made out of trees. “He feeds on ashes” is a humorous but sad reality: “both ash and god are the products of the same thing” (Motyer, 349). The substance that is burned for warmth and turns to ashes is the same substance as the false gods.

You Will Not Be Forgotten (21-23)
The Lord calls to His people’s remembrance six certainties: (1) He formed them, (2) Israel is His Servant, (3) He will not forget them, (4) He blotted out their transgressions and sins, (5) He redeemed them, and (6) He glorified Himself in them. These certainties tell us more of who this God is that we are discussing. Some of these are repeated from earlier, but they still echo with beautiful truth. How wonderful it is to hear God say, “I will not forget you.” Our God is not a forgetful God. From eternity past, He has never forgotten a thing. Of course, God hasn’t forgotten their sins, but as quickly and easily as a wind can blow away even thick clouds, the Lord blots out Israel’s transgressions and sins.

A wonderful chorus of praise is contained in verse 23. The Lord’s works are worthy of praise. So, the heavens, the earth below, the mountains, and forests are all commanded to sing of what the Lord has done. While pagans bow down to chiseled wood, the trees of the forests are commanded to bow down and worship the Lord of heaven and earth. Why is the Lord worthy of this kind of global praise from creation? He is worthy because He has redeemed Jacob and glorified Himself in Israel. He has not forgotten them. God should be highly exalted for His work of salvation. Of course, His ultimate goal, the climax of the plan of redemption was the coming of Jesus Christ. His laying down His life for us was the Father’s decisive act of blotting out humanity’s sins, for those who will come to Him by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord, Who Makes All Things (24-28)
As Israel’s “Redeemer,” God has made Himself the “next-of-kin.” He is responsible for her care, protection, and livelihood. The language of God “forming” Israel “from the womb” is that of being involved even before they ever existed as a people. He planned, prepared, and brought about the nation. Not only has the Lord brought about the nation of Israel, but the Lord makes clear that He has made all things single-handedly. He says that He stretches out the heavens “all alone” and spreads abroad the earth “by Myself.” There is no mixing words here. He alone is the Maker of all things. He is the one-of-a-kind Maker, Stretcher, and Spreader of everything.

The Lord also sees to it that the folks who are wise in their own eyes are frustrated, driven mad, turned backward, and made foolish. On the other hand, the Lord guarantees the words of his servants and messengers. What was the primary message that He wanted proclaimed at that time in history? The prophets were to declare the promises that Jerusalem would be inhabited once again and that the cities of Judah would be rebuilt. The Lord would make certain that the word delivered by His messengers came to pass.

While the Lord had chosen Babylon to be the agent of His divine discipline of Judah, they, too, would be punished for their sins. Although Babylon was a mighty world empire, appearing as vast and deep as a great sea, the Lord would say, “Be dry!”, and Babylon would be shriveled up to nothing. We may think back to the great Exodus from Egypt when all obstacles were taken out of Israel’s path including the Red Sea which the Lord parted and the people crossed on dry ground. It would be Persia who would rise up as the next great world empire led by King Cyrus who is mentioned in the last verse of the chapter. Cyrus the Great of Persia would pass a decree that the exiles could return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple of their God. The Lord made this known through His prophets long before it took place. He made the decree, and He made certain its fulfillment. Once again, we see that our Lord is the one who raises up kings and nations as well as bringing down kings and nations. He is the Sovereign over all the world for all of history.

Conclusion and Christian Application
There is so much that can and should be said in response to these great truths in the forty-fourth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord speaks first hand throughout to declare His ways, His purposes, and His promises. Let me say from a post-Calvary perspective that God has formed us as a people as well. We, as Christians, are the chosen people of God. He has poured out His blessings and His Spirit on us because we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer, our King, and our Rock. Our eyes have been opened to the absurdity of humanity’s condition. We have come to the realization that we are poor in spirit but that God forgives our sins on the basis of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. God has not left us in our sins. He has remembered us. He is worthy of all our praise, adoration, and trust. We serve the God who reigns on high and holds all of the nations for all of history in His hands.