The Suffering Servant of God

jesus-bowed-under-weight-of-cross1The Lord God, the creator of the Universe, knows ahead of time what is going to happen. To show that He alone is God, He spoke through various prophets letting them know and us, what He was going to do. The prophet Isaiah, for instance, ministered for over forty years (740-697 B.C.) and spoke about a time when God would send a suffering servant to the nation of Israel. This servant of God would be humiliated, persecuted, spat upon, mocked, the hair from His beard would be pulled out, and His back would be whipped:

6I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; 
I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting (Isaiah 50:6)

Isaiah went on to prophesy about this Suffering Servant, that He would be despised and rejected, but in this act of suffering He would carry our transgressions, sorrows and our infirmities (physical or mental weaknesses):

3He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem. 4Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, 
yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. 
5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; 
the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. 
6We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; 
and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isaiah 53:4-6).

The prophet Isaiah, five hundred or so years before Christ, spoke in detail about the suffering of the Lord Jesus Christ, sharing with us that this One sent from God would make His life an offering for sin. Jesus fulfilled all of these things and much more. He was brutally whipped on His back, beaten by the company of soldiers about His head, humiliated and mocked as they impaled Him with a crown of thorns, before leading Him off to one of the worst tortures that man has devised—crucifixion. He would come as a substitute and take the guilt that we have incurred by our lives of sin and animosity toward God, and pay the penalty that our sins deserve. Because of this one act of love by the suffering servant, Jesus, God can deal with us in grace and mercy. This suffering servant would be God Himself. He Himself would show us how much He loves us and desires us to enjoy relationship with Him. This plan to buy us back from Satan’s slave market of sin, was put into operation thousands of years ago when man decided that he would listen and obey Satan rather than God in the Garden of Eden. The just penalty that God had to place on this rebellion was death and separation from God (Genesis 2:17). But because of God’s love and mercy He did not leave us in this state—He would come and take the just penalty on Himself for sin. This act of love would be a covenant in blood, a solemn agreement by two people—you and God. For all those who agree to the terms of this solemn covenant or agreement, He will take your sin and count it paid for by the act of love by the Suffering substitutionary Servant, Christ. What about you, dear reader, will you agree to the terms of this covenant? Your sin has been paid for two thousand years ago by One who came to die in your place. To agree to the terms of the covenant, you must repent (turn from your sin towards God in obedience to Him) and believe (trust in Christ as your Savior from sin) the gospel (the good news that God loves you and has taken the initiative to cancel out your guilt and everything that keeps you from enjoying eternal life with Him). If you will call upon the name of the Lord in this way, the promise is that you will enjoy eternal life:

16For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (John 3:16-18).

He is only a prayer away. No matter what sin you have done, He will forgive you on the basis of the substitutionary death in your place of His Son Jesus. He hears every heart cry. Let this be your day. Eternity is a long time—there is no time like the present. Turn to the lover of your soul.

Keith Thomas

The Unseen Realm Part 1

There are three parts to this first talk on my new series called: If God is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? The first session of this series is called The Unseen Realm. The notes are free and in the middle column under the heading of this same series. The other two parts of this talk can be found below. I start this talk with an illustration from my early days as a commercial fisherman when I caught an unexploded mine in my nets.

The Unseen Realm Part 2

This video is the second part of my message on the Unseen Realm, the first session of my topic on If God Is For Us, Who Can Be Against Us? We talk about what Paul wrote about being taken to the third heaven. If there is a third heaven, where are the first and second heavens? What happens in the Unseen Realm? Why should we understand what happens in that realm?

The Unseen Realm, Part 3

There are three parts to my talk on the Unseen Realm. This third part begins with the story of an unseen angel that stood to confront Balaam. The angel was seen by the donkey that Balaam was riding on, but beyond the senses of the prophet who was filled with greed. You may want to see Parts 1 and 2 before listening to this third part.

Unseen Things Can Be Dangerous

Alaska. Southeast. Commercial salmon seiner fishing boat with a net.

The worst thing possible to happen to a fisherman is to have an unexploded mine in the net.

When I glanced down at the water rushing past my fishing trawler in the wrong direction, I knew something was wrong. The net my father and I were towing along the bottom of the seabed was caught on something heavy. We put our winches in gear and slowly pulled the boat back against the tide, toward the object that was stuck in our net. Inch by inch, we heaved the net, while our two-ton winch strained at the weight. Our fishing boat, the Why Worry, heavily leaned as she creaked and groaned, the derrick and mast taking the strain. When the net had been pulled to the surface, we found nestling squarely in the Cod End, the largest of the Second World War German magnetic mines. A whopping 12-foot-long mine still in pristine condition, with 1,500 pounds of high explosives. Designed to blow ships completely in half, it was now swinging inches above our deck as the waves made us roll. With a heavy clunk, we rested the mine on deck. Made of stainless steel, it looked as though it had just been placed on the bottom of the seabed. It had been buried beneath the mud in a very familiar piece of fishing ground, a place we had fished over and over again. The chains at the front of the net must have just caught it perfectly. Once we cut the mine from our net, we had to get it over the side again without incident. A delicate task, considering that it was still in such good condition, and was possible that it could still explode. Fishermen had heard of such things happening, boats just disappearing, not accounted for. With the whole boat leaning, we gently lowered it back into the sea and carefully cut through the rope strop, releasing it from our boat. Then, to our amazement, the mine stood up in the water, the top part of it still showing! We had not realized how shallow the water was and how little water was under our boat. We called the Coastguard to come and detonate the mine, so that it would not be a danger to any other boats. On the next high tide, they tied it to a long rope, towed it out to deeper water, and blew it up.

Seeing Beyond the Physical Realm

Like trawling a net in waters where two world wars have been fought, there are some things in life that can be unseen, but deadly. Just because you may be unaware of something dangerous, it doesn’t mean it cannot affect you. Electricity in a light plug is unseen, but stick your finger in a live socket, and you will soon realize there are powerful things that are unseen, but dangerous. Natural gas is odorless, but if there is a lot in your house, it can totally destroy your home. So, gas companies added a horrible smell, meaning if we have a leak, we’ll smell it. The unexploded mine shed light on the truth: even though we had gone over that familiar fishing ground again and again without mishap; there are some things in life that cannot be seen, but still affect our lives in ways we don’t realize.

The Bible is very clear that there is more to this world than can be seen with the naked eye. There is a spiritual realm that is just as real as the world we live in; I believe it to be more real than what is seen. This world is temporary and passing, a shadow of things to come. There are things unseen that are happening around us all the time, which are of a spiritual nature, and have eternal value.

Horses and Chariots of Fire

In the Old Testament book of 2 Kings, there is a story of a king reigning in Aram, who was angry because his actions and intentions were somehow being made known to the armies of Israel. He could not understand how Israel knew everything he was plotting, he believed he had a spy amongst his leaders (2 Kings 6:8-10). His problem was that Israel had a man of God, Elisha, who by the Spirit of God, knew the very words the King of Aram spoke in secret to his generals (2 Kings 6:11-12). God was revealing these things to Elisha, who was very aware of the unseen realms, and had an intimate and powerful prayer life. When the King of Aram discovered Elisha’s gift, he became so enraged, that he sent his army to the town where Elisha lived, hoping to kill or capture him: Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the LORD, “Strike these people with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked (2 Kings 6:14-18). When Elisha’s servant, Gehazi, looked at the size of the army of Aram, he began to lose heart. Things looked hopeless when seen only from an earthly perspective. But all was not as it seemed. There were spiritual forces of God around Elisha and Gehazi, so Elisha prayed for his servant’s eyes to be opened toward the unseen spiritual realm around them.

At the prayer of Elisha, Gehazi saw beyond the physical world and into the reality of the spiritual forces of God that were previously hidden from him. These angelic beings of God, that were much more powerful than the army of Aram. He saw the armies of heaven protecting and surrounding the prophet of God, available to serve him in whatever way the prophet prayed. The enemies of Israel were defeated with one display of God’s power at the prayer of Elisha. We too, as servants of the Living God, have angelic hosts that protect us. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?”(Hebrews 1:14). How much do we use or value heavenly help when we are in need? The Bible is very clear that angels are sent by God to serve us, even before we come to faith in Christ, and of course, afterward too. However, we do not reach out to angels in prayer for help; instead, our prayer is directed to the Father in whom we place our trust. Angelic beings take their direction and orders from the Father. It is faith that connects us to this unseen realm, just as it is faith that opened the servant’s eyes, and faith that caused Elisha to reach out to God in prayer. Many Christians are just like Elisha’s servant, unaware of God’s power and supernatural resources. A majority of Christians have no room for the supernatural; for the most part, they are oblivious to angelic beings and demonic spirits. How many times do we miss seeing God’s power displayed and Satan’s kingdom displaced because we don’t reach out to God in prayer or believe in Him for divine resources and intervention?

A simple prayer for you:

“Father, I pray that I may have greater awareness of what you are doing on Earth. Let the way I view the world be according to the lens of Your Word, and don’t let me be influenced by unseen evil forces that seek my fall. Let Your Kingdom come on Earth as it is in heaven. Amen.”

Keith Thomas