Nov 28, 2023
He made my mouth like a sharp sword;
in the shadow of his hand he hid me;
he made me a polished arrow;
in his quiver he hid me away.
God promised to bring salvation to the “coastlands” and to the “peoples from afar” through the work of His Servant. This Servant would arise out of the ash heap of the destroyed people of Israel to bring salvation and glory to both the Jews and the Gentiles, to the city of Jerusalem and to Gaza, the West Bank, New York City, Tokyo, and Shanghai.
This great salvation comes to each people through published Good News about the Servant. They must “give attention” to the Servant, His work, and His glory. They must hear and believe. They must listen attentively before repenting and believing. In this way they will know salvation. But something about this message makes hearing with faith extremely difficult.
The Servant is like a sharp sword and a polished arrow. When the people hear the good news about the Servant’s salvation, the words cut them to the heart (Ac 2:37). The truth spoken by the Servant causes offense. The assertion of the Servant as LORD and Savior makes enemies of those who desire also to assert themselves as their own gods and their own saviors. The Servant sent to establish His own righteous kingdom finds enemies in those who delight in their own little kingdoms of unrighteousness.
The word of God revealed in the Servant pronounces judgment. As light aimed at the underside of the couch exposes the army of dust bunnies, dried out crumbles of children’s snacks, and the lost pair of stinky socks, so the light radiating from the servant exposes the ugly sinfulness of man’s heart, mind, and conduct. The Servant came to conquer sin. Since sin lives in the heart of each man, the heart of man must be conquered. The sin within must be separated by the sharp, piercing scalpel which is the word of God spoken about His Servant. Those resistant to the glory of God and passionate about their own glory will resist the word at all cost.
Thankfully, God hides the Servant and His Word in the “shadow of His hand.” In this phrase, God poetically promises that the Servant’s Word will produce the desired outcome. Yes, the doctrine He proclaims and the truth He reveals will stir up opposition in every town and heart to which the Word goes, but God promises to watch over His Word, to make sure that the Word preached yields a harvest of fruit.
10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. (Isaiah 55:10-11 ESV)
God’s Word spoken by and about His Servant will effectually accomplish all the LORD intends. The LORD will see to it that the Word does not return to Him without producing with power all He desires. The word meets opposition, but God holds the Servant in the shadow of His hand securing His potency and victory.
God’s Word, Jesus, Is Both Offensive and Effective.
The apostle John had this to say about the little baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God... 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-2, 14 ESV)
This child, named Jesus, grew up into a man who went from town to town preaching the Good News of His kingdom and its arrival. He taught the truth about God both in word and deed. But, just as promised by Isaiah, the people did not receive Him or His message.
11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. (John 1:11 ESV)
He preached the good news, but
19 ...people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (John 3:19-20 ESV)
Even though the Word proclaimed by Jesus about Jesus met hostile opposition and rejection, not every heart hardened in rebellion. Some hearts heard the message and believed. Some welcomed the news of the Servant’s coming with joyful repentance. Some abandoned the lies that enslaved them and turned to the truth. In some hearts, the word, like a seed planted in good soil, took root and flourished.
Should we see the belief and repentance of some and conclude that the hearts of the repentant somehow possessed a superior quality than the hearts of the unbelieving? Absolutely not. The distinction lies not in man but in the work of God. The existence of a people who hear the word and believe stands as evidence that God indeed hid His Servant in the shadow of His hand. God watches over His Servant and the Word of His mouth to make sure that they do not labor in vain.
21 But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.” (John 3:21 ESV)
18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:18 ESV)
Be Encouraged and Faithful in Publishing the Good News about Jesus
If God has promised to watch over His word - to see to it that His word yields fruit, we should first experience encouragement in our hearts. Sharing the truth about Jesus is less like a task you complete on Saturday, and more like a lifetime of sowing, watering, pruning, and harvesting. Sometimes we sow without ever knowing the joy of harvesting as God allows another the privilege. Sometimes we water and no sprout ever breaks the surface. Sometimes we plant and then the enemy invades our fields, blackens our eyes and leaves us for dead.
In the work of evangelism, the sharing of the gospel of Jesus, our hearts find great reason for discouragement. We teach our children the gospel and they rebel, show no signs of faith, and stiffen their necks against the Christ we treasure with our own hearts. We speak about Christ to families in our neighborhoods and to our limited eyes no effects appear. We send young families into hard cities overseas and we see little fruit from their years of service and our great financial investment. In such experiences, discouragement often finds a home in our hearts. But, we must not give in to despair.
Instead, we must be renewed in strength as we believe by faith what God has said. He will not let His Word return void. As His Word goes out, He sees to it that the message produces the fruit He desires. So then we must, with encouraged hearts, faithfully take the Word across the street and to the ends of the earth.