“This is what God, the Lord, says–who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and spirit to those who walk on it–‘I am the Lord. I have called you for a righteous purpose, and I will hold you by your hand. I will watch over you, and I will appoint you to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness from the prison house. I am the Lord. That is my name, and I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. The past events have indeed happened. Now I declare new events; I announce them to you before they occur.'”
“I have called you for a righteous purpose…” God is speaking to the Hebrew nation, His chosen people, but He is also talking to all of God’s people, the New Testament Church, which was grafted into Israel. He’s speaking to us. Through faith in Christ, we belong to God, and have been called for a righteous purpose. We were not saved simply to go to Heaven–this is a wonderful reward–but we have been given a purpose on the earth.
“…and I will hold you by your hand…” Not only is God sending us out to be a light in the world, but He is also leading us, holding our hand, and guiding us. This is confirmed in Matthew 28, in the context of the Great Commission, when Jesus says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you…” He is Emmanuel; He is with us.
“Now I declare new events…” God is declaring to His people a new day and new things. He’s also giving them a hint of what will happen when Jesus comes to the earth.
Jeff then took us to Jeremiah 31:31-34:
“‘Look, the days are coming’–this is the Lord’s declaration–‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt–my covenant that they broke even though I am their master’–the Lord’s declaration. ‘Instead this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days’–the Lord’s declaration. ‘I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them’–this is the Lord’s declaration. ‘For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.'”
God is describing to His people the completely new way in which He’s going to work with them. He is creating a new covenant, built on the truths of the old, but replacing the old; this new covenant will be based on God living inside of His people.
But how will God live inside of us? We’re all sinful. How is God going to make our insides liveable for Him? How do we become His temple?
The radical truth is that Jesus will come to earth and die for our sins and by simple acceptance, our sins are forgiven–all our sins, pas, present, and future. God is rich in mercy and He has designed a way to come and live in us as clean vessels through the work of Christ.
Looking specifically at verses 32-34, God says He will write in our hearts His will and He is inviting us into a joyful love relationship with Christ through faith alone. The result of all this is phenomenal: He will never again remember our sins!
How many of us struggle because we remember our sin? I certainly do. It can make you feel like a second-class Christian. Sometimes when we’re in His presence, we’re so distracted because we believe all He’s looking at is our last sin. The truth, though, is that God will never again remember our sins. Christ’s work on the cross took care of that once and for all.
We’re eager to interpose a “yes, but…” We all go through the list of the things we should be doing–that list of good works that might make us feel better in time. However, every time we elevate a “list item” in our life, to prove to God that we’re good enough, every one of those is a declaration that Jesus’ sacrifice is not good enough. Our sin still feels real and present to us, but God’s word is the truth we should listen to and on which we should base our actions.
Returning to the passage in Isaiah 42, part of our purpose is to make these truths known to others. Isaiah 42 is ultimately the mission of God’s people, but it is a messianic prophesy–the mission of Jesus.
In Jesus’ first sermon in Luke 4:16-21, Jesus is in one of the synagogues and is given the scroll of Isaiah. He finds the specific passage in Isaiah and reads:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…” –Isaiah 61:1-2a
He stops there. “To proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…”
Jesus wasn’t referring to the specific 365-day span in which He made this declaration. Jesus was referring to something in Leviticus 25:10.
“You are to consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom int he land for all its inhabitants. It will be your Jubilee, when each of you is to return to his property and each of you to his clan.”
It goes on to say all debts will be forgiven and all servants and slaves will be fully set free during this Jubilee year. The entire nation was supposed to stop work, to forgive debts, and to set people free. This is the year to which Jesus was referring. He was saying, “In Me, all things are made new, all things are forgiven, all things are reset.”
In the Luke 4 passage, Jesus rolls up the scroll and hands it back. What He says next is said of His own authority rather than on the authority of the prophet. He assumes a teaching posture, sitting down, and begins by saying, “Today as you listen, this scripture has been fulfilled.”
The Jews had been waiting–when is this new thing that Isaiah and Jeremiah spoke of? Jesus says the new covenant starts with Him–complete forgiveness and newness.
Our finances, our relationships, our culture, world events, our own hearts, our emotions–all these can lead us astray and confuse our priorities. When our perspectives get out of order, if we can remember to reset and remember that it is all because Jesus that we’re here, that we’re called for a righteous purpose, the reality will change us. Our circumstances and the events happening around us feel real, but reality is the new covenant, God’s word, Jesus’ work on the cross. We must step in and believe them by faith. This must guide our change, we must base our attitudes and perspectives in God’s truth.
Jeff then posed a few questions and scriptures to the congregation and gave us time for silent reflection and prayer as we answered these in our own hearts. I encourage you to do the same:
- What prompts us to change? What will provoke you to change your relationship with God today to one of intimate nearness to Him?
- Hebrews 3:15 says, “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Take time to pray and tell God what it is that’s preventing you from changing your relationship with Him. He loves you and He’s ready to hear it.
- Why don’t we want change? Why don’t we want God to change us?
The answer to the last question is very likely fear. Are we afraid of what He might do in us or through us, what He might ask us to let go of, where He might ask us to go, what He might ask us to give?
Think about the year of Jubilee described in Leviticus 25. People would have been afraid. To let go of workers and lands, to forgive debt, not to work the land–how would this have affected people’s lives and livelihoods?
God knew people would be afraid, so He goes on to reassure them, beginning in Leviticus 25:20, that He would provide for all their needs. This Jubilee year was intended to reveal God’s goodness and His love and His power. Fear keeps us from loving, trusting, and seeing God. He loves us and He’s going to take care of us.
2 Corinthians 9:8 tells us, “And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work.”
Ephesians 3:20 says, “Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us…”
And 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 reassures us that, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.”
Many of us know God is able and powerful, but we doubt that He will do so in our own lives. But God loves us dearly and wants so much more for us than we can imagine. He has given us purpose and has sent His spirit so we can know Him deeply and intimately.
The key to enjoying God is to enjoy God.
In this new year, how will you live? How will the truth of God’s word and of His covenant change you? We will live changed lives by allowing the truth of God to reset our lives every single day.
Jeff closed with Isaiah 43:18-19:
“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”