While at a basketball game a young man couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of the people in front of him. While listening, he struggled to call to mind the word used to describe the act of listening in on someone else’s conversation. So he asked his friend sitting next to him, “Hey, what’s the word for listening in on someone’s conversation again?” It was then that the person behind him tapped him on the shoulder and said, “It’s called eavesdropping.”
Eavesdropping is something done secretly. The people conversing don’t know someone else is listening. Today, we get to listen in on a conversation, but we are not eavesdropping. WE have been invited. “Listen to me,” Isaiah writes. “Hear this.” Listen to whom? Hear what? Listen and hear this awesome conversation between the first and second person of the trinity. Listen and hear this conversation between the Father and the Son. It isn’t too often that a human being is privy to a conversation within the Trinity, but this is one of those times. And this is an important conversation, in which our Messiah is the first to speak.
He says, “Before I was born the Lord called me; from my birth he has made mention of my name.” From the beginning God’s plan of deliverance for a world lost in darkness; a world consumed by sin and hostile to him, was the coming of one person. That’s who is before us right now. And we are told to listen to him, why? Because his message is the difference between life and death, redemption and judgment.
God Gave to Jesus the honor of being his called instrument of salvation, and Jesus knew that was his calling. He knew that at age 12 when he stayed behind in the temple and told his mother, Mary, “He had to be in his Father’s house.” He knew it before his first miracle when he, again to his mother, said “My time has not yet come.” There was never a moment in our Messiah’s life when he was not sure of being our Savior. This was his calling! And, if we go back into the conversation Isaiah records for us, we see that God equipped him to carry out his call.
“He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.” Can you picture this? Here comes Jesus called by God to be the Savior of this world. His mouth is a sword; his words are powerful, living, active, able to heal, fight off temptation, comfort, and forgive. They were the very Words of God! Jesus used his Word so often like a sharp sword cutting away pretense and unbelief, exposing sin, then applying the healing balm of God’s grace – think of the Samaritan woman at the well and how Jesus cut through the clutter of her life, exposed her sin and revealed himself as the promised Messiah.
And Jesus equipped with this powerful Word was then revealed at the proper time from the shadow of God’s hand, “When the time had fully come” ….right? But it wasn’t as if, as God’s people, mainly those in the Old Testament were waiting for him, that his power grew less and his importance waned. No, he was kept like a polished arrow ready to go at a moment’s notice safely in the quiver of God to be used when needed. Thus, Jesus was equipped for his call, to be salvation. That’s finally where this all leads
In this conversation, we see how Jesus was called and equipped, and finally the purpose of all this, what he is to be used for, is found in verses 3, 5 and 6. The Messiah is to “display God’s splendor.” He is to “bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself” but also was made “to be a light for the gentiles, to bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.” Jesus was sent primarily to the Jews, the promised people, chosen by God, Abraham’s descendants, to be their Salvation. Yet, this call and this purpose was extended also to the gentile world, to all people. This was how God honored his Son. He honored him by giving him the task of saving the world from sin. He honored him by calling him, by equipping him, and then using him as the instruments of that salvation; by putting him on the cross to die for every sin on this earth.
But what I find interesting – and if you’ve been glancing back at the lesson, you might have seen it to – is how the Messiah reacted to all this. Look at verse 4, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.” Have you ever been asked by someone at work, at school ,or at home, to do a task only to feel like it was all a big waste of time? Is that what Jesus is saying here? Is Jesus saying that his ministry, his work of being and bring salvation to the world was a failure? I hope not. We all hope not. So what is being said?
In his ministry on this earth, Jesus in his humiliation would recognize that his efforts often would be in vain. And we see that in the New Testament. He was chased out of his hometown. His words were met with sorrow from those who saw them as too difficult to follow. Many didn’t understand his message, even his own disciples need explanation after explanation to understand the simple truths he taught. Some of them even left him “they turned back and no longer followed him” John writes.
Our Messiah didn’t only appear to be human he was human – but without sin. He experienced the temptation to despair over what appeared to be failures in his ministry. By human standards it looked as though his entire work was a failure as he was arrested, put on trial, and ultimately put to death. But if you look at the end of verse four in Isaiah 49 you read this “Yet, what is due me is in the Lord’s hand.” Jesus expresses his confidence in God. Even though while he was on this earth it appeared he had failed, it was enough for Jesus to do God’s will and trust that God would give his work success. As you know God, did work it all out for success. God accepted Jesus’ sacrifice and on the third day he rose from the dead.
What an example this entire conversation is for us today! We like Jesus, have been honored by God with a calling. And that’s what our calling is isn’t it? It is an honor. I mean, think about it. Here we were, here you were, born a sinner, an enemy of God. What an incredible honor then to be able to say, like all of us can through faith in Jesus, “I am a child of God.” And you heard the key phrase there, right? We can say we are children of God through faith in Jesus. God called you not because you told him you were interested in salvation. God called you not because he thought you had lived a life that, compared to others, was better. No, the calling we received is an honor we never could earn or deserve, but God honored us in this way out of love and mercy. He honored us through his only Son, our great Servant, the promised Messiah, Jesus.
And that calling, like Jesus’, wasn’t a simple, “Here you go, I called you, now figure out how to grow and remain in your faith on your own, good luck.” No, we too were honored like the Son by being equipped with everything necessary for our salvation and a life of living set-apart from this world of sin. That equipment is simply this, the sword of Jesus’ mouth, the Word. The Word that has never changed. It has outlasted kings and nations. Earlier Isaiah wrote, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” This is our sword. Kept safely by our God and ready to be used at any moment. If you want to make it clear to people that only God’s Word can save them from unbelief, use the Word! Teach them the story of the rich man and poor Lazarus. If you want to make it clear to people that they are declared not guilty by faith and not works, use the Word! Teach the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector.
God has honored all of us by equipping us with this saving Word, and thank God for it! Because faith comes from hearing the message of Christ and that message is heard only through the Word, God’s Holy Word. With the Word at our side we are fully equipped to face and fight off any temptation that our sinful flesh, the world, and the devil might use against us. With the Word, we are able to comfort, encourage, and forgive sins as Jesus did when he walked this earth. With the Word, we, like Jesus, are God’s instruments used to bring salvation to all people. Our calling, our equipping, is for the same purpose as that of Jesus: to restore the lost and be a light to all, to bring salvation to the ends of the earth.
What an honor! Every day you get to wake up knowing that had you not lived through the night, you would’ve woken up in heaven and if your life is taken from you during the day the same is true; heaven is yours. Every day when you wonder how you are going to be that perfect spouse, how you will deal with that not-so-friendly classmate, or how you will avoid that ever-threatening temptation, you have the opportunity to take up the Word God has equipped you with which whispers into your ear that you are not alone and will never be alone. And on the days when you sit wondering why you even try, why you even bother with work or school, or even life, remember the purpose God has given you: God is using you to bring salvation to others and you are able to do that because he sent his Son Jesus to be salvation for you.
So when you go home today, keep in mind this conversation that happened thousands of years ago. Because this conversation was ultimately about how God would honor you through the good his Son would come to do. Rejoice in that honor! Rejoice that God is faithful and has chosen you to be his child. Rejoice that he has equipped you with his Word which will be your guide, your shield, and your salvation until you are home with him. And then see, how God will choose to use you in your ever day life as a witness; see how he will place you in opportunities and conversations of your own where you can be used to display his splendor, where you can be used to honor him. Amen.